What can be said of Nancy Pelosi’s leaving the House Speakership? Without stooping to sardonic humor, her departure is overdue, damage profound, mark on the chamber a blot. Years will be required to reverse her damage to the chamber’s reputation, practice, and rule.
Some will say that Pelosi broke new ground as first female House Speaker. That is true, and perhaps the only good thing one can say. It shows anyone can advance but it is not enough. Pelosi’s no Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, or Margaret Chase Smith.
Contravening all norms, she embraced rank, unmuffled partisanship, taking delight in stuffing the other party, not sharing information, misleading, mischaracterizing, and constantly offering, with mock neutrality, in-your-face one-ups-man-ship.
When the Affordable Care Act, which proved a big step back, came to a floor vote, it did so after secret drafting, unconscionable adds, and the demand Republicans – and Pelosi’s own caucus – vote for it to read it. Ever happened before? Never.
When in the annuls of democratic governing – let alone in the US House – has a leader demanded a blind vote to secure a politically untenable, fiscally ruinous bill pass, and by seven votes? Never.
Even under Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, legislation that was substantial – such as a yearend “omnibus bill” – got days in the Whip’s office for review. Pelosi changed that, demanding – in the way of autocrats – a vote without reading.
She crippled bipartisanship for the purposes of creating mock divisions for her party to run on, choosing to break the system and confound the Founders’ intent for power. In countless areas, she offered bills that increased federal power “under the table,” stiff-armed openness, honest debate, States’ rights, individual rights, and fiscal discipline.
She did this using tricks like false names on bills, like “Build Back Better” or “Inflation Reduction Act,” to soothe fears, which proved justified. She pushed false narratives to achieve the opposite of a bill’s title, damaging energy access, federalizing state prerogatives, changing culture by fiat.
She mocked Americans’ intelligence as demagogues do, giving “gold medals” to “those who protected the US Capitol on January 6, 2021” (HR 3325), while pushing the end of bail for criminals, defunding police, excoriating border patrol, legalizing drugs, passing private bills to reward illegal immigrants (e.g., HR 1548), and endless anti-police bills.
She blocked police reforms, such as companion bills to Black Republican Senator Tim Scott’s Senate bill (S. 3985), despite knowing they offered advances that would bind wounds, then claimed Republicans were to blame for no reform.
She attacked Republicans and energy companies, then collapsed 23 anti-fossil fuel bills into one, named it the “New Direction for Energy Independence” bill (HR 3220), and proceeded to ignore mass unemployment in the sector, high inflation from loss of energy independence.
On the legislative side, she pushed hundreds of bills that raised taxes on average Americans (directly and indirectly), locked down the country’s economy, degraded domestic, border, and national security, allowed increased drug trafficking, undermined defense readiness, and promoted radical cultural changes, such as gutting Title 9 for transgender primacy.
On the cultural side, she changed the language used in the House, banning references to mothers and fathers in favor of “gender neutral” terms, reimagining illegal immigration was not illegal, ended the term “illegal alien,” wants “amnesty” for all those illegally in the country.
On faith, she ridiculed those who opposed abortion, including a haughty hit at the Catholic Church for daring to be against it, then pushed bills that would allow killing a baby at end of term. In that vein, she called for a venting “righteous anger” against Supreme Court justices after Dobbs, putting them in fear.
Most damagingly, Pelosi’s House and committee rules changed in numerous ways, planting timebombs in the institution – some officially, such as boxing out the minority, some unofficially, such as by weaponizing oversight, subpoenas, and pioneering “flash impeachments,” knowingly, intentionally subverting Constitutional history and protections.
In a leap beyond, she pushed two impeachments with personal animus, driving a Mack truck through the constitutional process, ignoring history, blocking minority participation, selectively pre-releasing information, implying facts never proved, denying fair trial rights, due process, confrontation, 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment assurances, calling it just a “political process.”
In short, she made a travesty of the honor, dignity, and solemnity accorded the word “impeachment” for 200 years, doing so with glib indifference to the impact on the future. She respected nothing more than herself, her power and status – from violating COVID protocols to ignoring historic practices, rules, traditions, and sensibilities of prior House Speakers.
Much of what she did was behind the scenes, under the table, simply left unaccountable, from allowing insider trading, which touched her family, to disallowing traditional oversight of waste, fraud, abuse, border security, politicized Justice, unready Defense, chaos in Afghanistan.
The breadth of her impact on the US House is hard to underestimate, a fact in which she takes pride, but the impact is not positive. It is an enormous historical blot, a period of “politics uber alles,” “ends justify means,” political outcomes subverting truth, transparency, bipartisanship, and law.
In the end, Nancy Pelosi leaves behind a wrecked House, where trust is thin, bipartisanship a shadow, dignity, honor, and decency sidelined for raw power. She personified the erosion.
Objectively, America will suffer for Pelosi’s missteps, disregard for all who got us here. Lost is the understanding that big things matter beyond a Speaker’s personal agenda and fleeting hold on power. She never got that. Fair winds and following seas to the queen, she left a mess to clean.
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