Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that she would be seeking the Democratic House Minority Leader position. She did so, CNN reported, even as several moderate and conservative Democratic members of the House of Representatives were voicing their opinions that she should step aside. In the wake of the resounding Republican takeover of the House, where Republicans now enjoy a considerable majority, some believe Nancy Pelosi should take the hint that the country wants to move in a different direction.
“Many of our colleagues have called with their recommendations on how to continue our fight for the middle class, and have encouraged me to run for House Democratic Leader,” Pelosi said in a written statement. “Based on those discussions, and driven by the urgency of protecting health care reform, Wall Street reform, and Social Security and Medicare, I have decided to run.”
The Majority Leader until January, the recent defeat does not seem to have had much of an effect on Pelosi’s willingness to lead.
But there are those within the Democratic ranks that oppose Pelosi leader the Democratic Minority in the House for the 112th Congress. Among the opposition are Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah, who are calling for the Speaker of the House to step aside.
“I think based on the outcome of this election,” Matheson said, “we should all acknowledge what the American people said — and they are looking for change. And I think when you, as a political party, suffer losses of historic proportions, it makes sense to change things up. Therefore, I don’t think she should be running for leader.”
Matheson also worries that Pelosi’s leadership will make it more difficult to recruit Democratic candidates for the 2012 election, especially those that recently lost and could potentially win back their old seats.
Dan Boren of Oklahoma agrees, using the midterm elections as a direct mandate for change. “I cannot in good conscience support Nancy Pelosi as our leader,” Boren told CNN. “I think that it is important for the Democratic Party to move in a new direction for the sake of our country. Democrats and Republicans need leaders who are going to work together.”
Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania won’t be supporting Pelosi’s bid for Minority Leader, either. “I don’t get the sense that Speaker Pelosi understands what happened on Tuesday. We lost middle America. The Democratic party got crushed.”
Heath Shuler is one of those considering challenging Pelosi. Few think he has a chance. Many cite her exceptional fund raising abilities as
Altmire told CNN that he didn’t believe the Democrats would ever win back the seats they lost as long as Nancy Pelosi leads them in the House. But he also is realistic and believes she will win the House Minority Leader position.
But Pelosi doesn’t enjoy a popular mandate among the electorate. Rasmussen Reports revealed that in a poll released the week before the midterm elections, 60 percent of respondents had an Unfavorable opinion of the Speaker of the House, with 52 percent of those having a Very Unfavorable opinion of her. Only 33 percent have a Favorable opinion of her, with 16 percent holding a Very Favorable opinion.
Although Pelosi seems to be popular within her own party (62 percent view her positively), 91 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Independents view her unfavorably.
There might also be something else to consider. According to a Gallup Poll released in January, the United States seems to be moving in a more conservative direction. A full 40 percent of Americans now self-identify as conservatives, up 3 percent since 2008. The number of moderates were down a percentage point to 36 percent. The number of liberals were down as well, falling a percentage point to 21 percent.
With such an overwhelming shift toward the conservative in House representation, not to mention the gradual shift toward conservatism in the general population, there seems to be be something to be said about the progressive policies espoused by Pelosi that might alienate the more moderate and conservative (of all parties) members of the Democratic (and Republican) Parties. But is that something that Nancy Pelosi is willing to acknowledge? Could she be convinced that stepping aside in the current political climate might just be what is best for the Democratic Party now and in the future? Moreover, given that she has declared her run for the Minority Leader position, does it really matter?