When the history of the 2010 mid-term elections is written no doubt a lot will be said about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will surrender her gavel when republicans stampede into office this January. Pelosi’s tenure as speaker was historic, no only for being the first woman speaker, but also because she was the second speaker to come from west of the rockies, and due to the amount of power she accumulated and wielded from her office.
In fact, health care legislation would likely not have been passed had Nancy Pelosi not pressed President Obama to press forward with the legislation. In her final years as speaker she was sharply critical of the outgoing Bush administration. Though extremely popular in her home district in San Francisco, Pelosi was seen as a polarizing figure nationwide and her favorability rating dropped to 29% in March of 2010.
Now that Nancy Pelosi is out as speaker democrats face a new problem: a leadership vacuum. For better or worse congressional democrats have played the central role in crafting legislation while the White House has simply looked over their shoulders and punted on a number of hot button issues such as don’t ask don’t tell and the closure of Gitmo.
In a way Nancy Pelosi had to do all of the hard work herself: calling out the Bush administration and shepherding progressive legislation through the Congress, while the White House floated above the fray. Though President Obama is nominally the head of the democratic party, during the health care debate he appeared to be merely an interested spectator.
While many people may have not agreed with Nancy Pelosi’s policies, you could always tell where she stood on an issue, and more importantly where she was going. Without her the democratic party is more or less adrift.