Nancy Pelosi has resumed her position as Speaker of the House. She was the first woman ever to hold that post her first time around. She will now join the legendary Sam Rayburn as the only person in the last sixty years to regain the post, and as the oldest person (78) to hold the position. Her reascenscion is described in the digital publication Politico : “The survivor: Nancy Pelosi makes history — again. She will reclaim the speaker’s gavel in a stunning display of her power in the Democratic Caucus.”
How does Ms. Pelosi do it? One description was offered by her daughter (one of her five children), documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding. That’s all you need to know about her.”
Alexandra perhaps refers to her mother’s unfailing smile and politeness, herself being brought up as the youngest daughter in a large Baltimore Catholic family and the graduate of a parochial all-girl’s school. She early on observed power: her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., was Mayor of Baltimore. But her mother, Annunciata, kept the file on who owed her husband favors and who was naughty and nice.
So Nancy came to Congress knowing how to wield power, a skill she displayed freely from her liberal San Francisco congressional seat (to which she was first elected in 1987): she opposed the war in Iraq, navigated bills to bail out Wall Street and halt an economic free-fall, allowed gays to serve in the military, and ushered through President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to extend access to health care to 20+ million more Americans.
She had to bend some arms in order to pass Obamacare with strictly Democratic votes, as she also did with bills that were not successful. One such effort was a climate change bill that had no prospects of passage by the Senate. One congressman from a vulnerable district in Ohio, Zack Space, was thus reluctant to sign on to the bill.
It turned out that Mr. Space had Greek roots, so that Nancy Pelosi had a woman leader in the Greek community contact him to assure his vote.
Here's how I imagine that conversation went:
Rachel (not woman’s name), how are the children? Mine are all grown and I love my time with the grandchildren.
(After more family talk): Listen, do you know Zack Space? He just admires you and your commitment to the Greek community so much.
But I need Zack’s vote on a very important bill concerning climate change, which I know you share my views on.
Could you find time to talk to Zack about how important you feel passing this bill is? I’d be so grateful if you would.
Of course, my awkward effort here can only dimly, if at all, replicate Nancy Pelosi's skills, which I doubt that even her daughter can emulate. But it is fun to imagine how Ms. Pelosi operates.
Oh, Mr. Space wasn’t re-elected. But Ms. Pelosi’s job was to enact bills like Obamacare, and not to guarantee every Democrat in Congress’s political future.