Congressional elections determine who represents the American People in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Because two main political parties dominate the US political system, Congressional elections also determine which political party controls which chambers of the Legislative Branch. Although the American People have the chance to register their approval or disapproval for the Congressional nominees vying to represent their districts, the most powerful Congressional jobs are given to those who can earn the most support from their peers. Following the 2016 Midterms, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was reelected Majority Leader of the Senate and New York Senator Chuck Schumer was reelected Minority Leader. On the House side, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy was elected Minority Leader while Republican Steve Scalise became Minority Whip. For House Democrats, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has complicated things.
In 2007, Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to assume the role of House Speaker. The House Speaker is the most powerful position in House of Representatives, because it is the House Speaker who sets the legislative agenda for the House of Representatives. Although Nancy Pelosi was an effective administrator and skillful political operative, she was also a liberal lightening rod for Republicans. Despite her continued popularity in her home district and her popularity among her follow Congressional Democrats, Nancy Pelosi did not enjoy the broad support of the American People. Today, Americans have more favorable views of Nancy Pelosi than President Donald Trump, but she has consistently remained unpopular among the general populous. More than unpopular, the American People as whole do not seem to like Nancy Pelosi on a personal level. At very least, she is a terribly polarizing figure. In many respects, the sentiments Americans feel toward Nancy Pelosi are akin to their sentiments toward Hillary Clinton.
Just as Hillary Clinton used her political influence to block viable Democratic candidates from challenging her in the 2016 President Election, Nancy Pelosi has the power to use her elitist, establishment status to brush aside other contenders for the position of House Speaker. Clinton’s ego, lust for power, and elitist entitlement are what likely dissuaded enough Democratic voters from going to the polls and encouraged enough Republican voters to make Donald Trump the President of the United States. Voters rejected Hillary Clinton, because they did not like her and they did not want a President picked by the establishment. After Barack Obama became President, Republicans launched an ever-intensifying propaganda war to vilify the legislative achievements of Democrats and Democratic leadership. They attempted to make Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi the enemies of the American People. While President Obama maintained his popularity and Harry Reid’s image remained fairly neutral, Republicans more than successfully demonized Pelosi. Her return to the national spotlight could well be enough to derail Democrats in future elections.
The race for House Speaker is the same as the race for the Presidency, especially since elected Democrats alone are the ones who must chose their party leaders, but it is nearly as consequential. Under Trump, Pelosi will determine whether or not the House can work with the President and the Republican-controlled Senate. She has not demonstrated an ability to work with Republicans. If a Democratic becomes President in 2020, Pelosi’s powers as House Speaker would grow, along with her ability to determine the legislative direction of the US. Americans have already registered extreme dissatisfaction with Pelosi’s legislative agenda when she was last House Speaker. If Democrats just have to be a slightly better option than Republicans in the 2020 Elections, Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker will not matter. Democrats, of course, tried this strategy in the 2016 Presidential Election and it resulted in the election of Donald Trump. It was a failure then and it will likely be a failure again.
Voters are dissatisfied with the choices the elites of the Democratic Party and Republican Party are selecting for them. Donald Trump may now have the backing of the Republican establishment as the US President, but he established himself as a political outsider when he won the Republican nomination in the face of establishment opposition. Trump is likely to be the establishment candidate in 2020, yet he continues to hold the anti-establishment mantle. With Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker, a vote for a Congressional Democrat and/or the Democratic Presidential nominee is a vote for Nancy Pelosi. If Democrats run a Presidential candidate far stronger and far more favorable than Pelosi and Trump, Pelosi’s status as House Speaker may not matter. If Democrats do not, which is a strong possibility as another candidate as energizing as Obama is unlikely to emerge, Pelosi could both discourage Democratic voters and energize Republicans voters in favor of Trump. Even if the Democratic Presidential nominee can beat Trump, Pelosi could cost Democrats the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was able to pass historic pieces of legislation in the face of crippling Republican opposition. It was Nancy Pelosi who gathered the votes needed to pass the most comprehensive healthcare reform package in history, i.e. Obamacare. She did this in spite of every Republican effort to derail it. It was Nancy Pelosi who engineered a Democratic takeover of the House and Senate in 2006. Since she lost the speakership in 2010, Minority Leader Pelosi has resisted every Republican effort to chip away at her legacy, a legacy she wants to protect by becoming House Speaker. Her leadership has been indispensable to Democrats for decades. It is still needed, but she cannot be the public face of House Democrats. Nancy’s skills as a manager is what Congressional Democrats and government in general need. Unfortunately, popularity matters just as much as qualifications when it comes to politics. Pelosi cannot hold a position of such influence as House Speaker. Her public image is far too tainted to allow her to become the public face of Congressional Democrats. What Pelosi can do is command her party as House Majority Leader or as the informal leader of Congressional Democratic.
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