Why Nancy Pelosi Must Remain Speaker
By Robert Cruickshank
Here in California, what looked like a potentially disastrous election might not turn out so badly after all. Recent polling gives Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer a good chance of being re-elected, should the GOTV go well. Yesterday's Field Poll shows Prop 23 trailing and Prop 25 leading, which is good, although Prop 19 is now trailing too, and nobody really knows what the hell is happening with Prop 26.
There are still some downticket races that really matter, particularly the battle for Attorney General between Kamala Harris and the Karl Rove-backed right-winger Steve Cooley, a race Field Saturday found to be a dead heat.
But the most suspenseful race on Tuesday night will involve a member of Congress who will have no trouble getting re-elected from her district. Nancy Pelosi is the first Speaker of the House from California and the first female Speaker. But after just four years in the Speaker's office, only two of which came with a Democratic president, she faces the loss of her majority on Tuesday. Nate Silver at 538 projects Republicans will gain 53 seats, enough to give them about a 20 seat majority.
Seats here in California are in play. Democrats face close races in CA-11, where Jerry McNerney may just barely hold off David Harmer; in CA-20, where Jim Costa faces a tough fight against Andy Vidak, and in CA-47 where Loretta Sanchez might finally have met her match in Van Tran. On the other hand, Dems have a real pickup opportunity in CA-3 with Ami Bera challenging Dan Lungren, and could also win a number of Southern California seats: CA-44 (Bill Hedrick challenging Ken Calvert), CA-45 (Steve Pougnet challenging Mary Bono Mack) and CA-48 (Beth Krom challenging John Campbell).
But it's the worsening national picture that portends doom for Speaker Pelosi. Many of the seats won in 2006 and 2008 are poised to flip back to Republicans in states like Florida, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Combined with a nationwide enthusiasm gap (one that hasn't appeared on the West Coast), it might be enough to cost Democrats their House majority.
Even if Democrats keep the Senate, however, Republican control of the House will be catastrophic for California's future. Although Frank Rich believes a Republican House wouldn't act as radical as it talks, I'm not so sanguine. The teabagger majority will demand massive cuts to important federal programs such as health care, education, and mass transportation. They might not get the 40% cut in spending they demand, but they'll get quite a lot of the Hooverism they demand, and California will get the brunt of it.
Worse, new initiatives to create jobs will be stalled (not that the White House was doing much about it anyway) and unemployment will either remain steady or rise - as Robert Reich suggests, Republicans will want to keep unemployment as high as possible going into 2012 in order to defeat Obama. California, with 12% unemployment, will struggle to reduce it without federal help, worsening our already dire budget situation.
That's all bad enough. What is truly unjust about this situation is that Speaker Pelosi did everything right. Under her leadership the past two years, the House of Representatives passed some very strong legislation that mostly fulfilled a progressive agenda. Some of the highlights of Speaker Pelosi's accomplishments:
• Strong health care bill with a public option
• Cap-and-trade climate bill
• Blueprint for new transportation bill with $50 billion in high speed rail funding
• Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell
• Decent (if not great) financial regulation bill
And Pelosi had been frequently calling for a second stimulus after it became apparent that the first one (itself stronger in the House than in the Senate) was failing to end the recession.
What happened to that ambitious agenda? It died in the US Senate, where Democrats like Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln were enabled to sabotage and ultimately destroy the Democratic House majority by Harry Reid's failed leadership. The White House also spent plenty of time sabotaging the House's progressive agenda, either failing to stand up for its priorities in the Senate or by actively collaborating with the DINO bloc to undermine the House's accomplishments.
President Obama and the Senate Democrats failed their party, failed their base, and failed their country. Yet it is Speaker Pelosi who may pay the price. It's a monumental injustice, and a disaster that could derail this country for a generation.
If you live in a district where there is even a hint of an incumbent Democrat being in trouble, or even a possibility of a Democrat knocking off an incumbent Republican, we need you to get out there right now and help elect those Democrats. Speaker Pelosi deserves another 2 years to try and force the White House and the Senate to get things right - and the country deserves to be saved from the catastrophe that would be Speaker John Boehner.
Robert Cruickshank is the Public Policy Director at the Courage Campaign. He is also a contributing editor at Calitics.com.