I vividly remember 2006 when the Democrats took back the House. For the first time in history, we were going to have a female Speaker of the House in Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). I remember running up to my friend at our middle school lockers and jumping up and down saying “Nancy Pelosi! Female Speaker! Democrats!”
Look, I wasn’t “cool” in middle school.
That’s why, as an adult, I was surprised to learn that so many people really didn’t like Nancy Pelosi. And not just bros on the Internet, who may never be happy with a woman in power, but other elected officials and smart political minds.
How deep is the hatred of Nancy Pelosi? A February poll put her approval rating at 29%. In 2016, a third of the Democratic caucus voted to replace her. She was a prominent figure in Republican attack ads, and linking candidates with Nancy Pelosi was treated like the kiss of death. And it’s not because people hate Democrats. In fact, her disapproval rating is double the disapproval rating of the Democratic party.
Since everyone hates Nancy Pelosi so much, she must be fending off challengers with a gilded stick huh? But in reality, Nancy Pelosi appears to be well-loved in her district (according to the numbers, but if my Aunt Shirley, intelligent and hardworking San Francisco lawyer and activist disagrees with me, I will edit this). The closet election Pelosi ever faced was in 2016 when she won with a low 80.9% of the vote. And her most recent Democratic primary challenger got 8.5% of the vote to Pelosi’s 68.5%. People in Pelosi’s district like Nancy Pelosi. A lot.
And with good reason. Nancy Pelosi is a very effective leader of the party. Under her, not a single Democrat, not even the ones from districts Trump won, voted to repeal Obamacare. She facilitated the passage of President Obama’s stimulus bill, and fought hard for universal healthcare coverage when some people in the Obama administration wanted to scale back the Affordable Care Act.
Her support for the stimulus bill is where a lot of the criticism of her comes from, particularly from leftists who accuse her of being a support of the big banks and a corporate centrist. And yet no one really says that about the 244 other people who voted for the same bill. And unlike other Democrats charged with “corporate centrism” (sorry Hillary) Pelosi has progressive bona fides. She opposed the Iraq War, she opposed the Trans Pacific Partnership, she opposed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She held the floor for eight hours to force a vote on immigration.
Most of the criticism this week has focused on her “call for bipartisanship.” She had the gall to say "We will have accountability and strive for bipartisanship. We must try." Lots of people read into this to say that Nancy Pelosi was advocating for the Democrats to lie down and just pass everything the Republicans wanted. Of course, this worry runs counter to everything Pelosi has done throughout her career, standing up to cuts to Social Security and the Iraq War, and sometimes ensuring her caucus did the same. And not for nothing, “try” isn’t the same as “do” but whatever, words mean nothing now.
Pelosi isn’t even the only person who has called for bipartisanship in our recent politics. Twitter’s new favorite politician, Beto O’Rourke has actually only ever sponsored bipartisan bills in his time in the House. I’m not saying this is a bad thing! But when Beto does it, it’s something to praise and when Pelosi says maybe the Democrats will try to be bipartisan, she’s vilified.
Even Pelosi’s critics have to acknowledge she’s good at what she does. She’s the reason we have the Affordable Care Act. She’s excellent at the horse trading, the promises that come into play when you have to actually pass legislation.
Maybe that’s why people hate Pelosi, because she’s so good at the Washington behind the scenes work. People like candidates who are ideologically pure, people who can put themselves above the grosser aspects of politics, the back slapping and the glad-handing (side note, if anyone knows what glad-handing is lemme know, it’s a great word I am too lazy to look up). But those people can’t always get things done. And say what you will about Nancy Pelosi, but she gets things done.
Finally, of course, our society doesn’t like women. Our society really doesn’t like older women. Or powerful women. And a powerful, older woman? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if people hate her. So I’m not surprised. But I’m disappointed that people keep falling for the Republican talking points and pushing out women who are good at their jobs.
If you think I’m wrong, let me know! If you think there’s a non-sexist reason you hate Nancy Pelosi, please tell it to me! But before you do, do a quick google search and make sure there’s not a man who’s done the same thing. Because odds are, there is one that you are overlooking in order to heap your ire on Nancy Pelosi. And then think about why that might be.