Dan Walters

Pelosi, McCarthy personify divide of cities and nation

Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is escorted to the House chamber following the resignation of John Boehner, at the Capitol on Oct. 29, 2015. He’s flanked on his right by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and on his left by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is escorted to the House chamber following the resignation of John Boehner, at the Capitol on Oct. 29, 2015. He’s flanked on his right by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and on his left by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Associated Press file

It would be difficult to name two California cities more culturally, economically and, of course, politically disparate than San Francisco and Bakersfield – just 300 miles apart but in different existential orbits.

San Francisco: Eternally hip, bursting with tech wealth and extremely liberal. San Franciscans gave Hillary Clinton four times as many votes as Donald Trump.

Bakersfield: Country music capital of California, an economy rooted in agriculture and oil, and blood red in its politics. Trump won Kern County in a landslide.

As it happens, the majority and minority floor leaders of the House of Representatives hail from Bakersfield (Republican Kevin McCarthy) and San Francisco (Democrat Nancy Pelosi).

McCarthy is basking in the glow of success, not only because Republicans retained control of the House – despite some predictions they would lose their margin – but because he appears to be closer to Trump than most GOP legislators.

Trump is clearly at odds with Speaker Paul Ryan, the GOP’s top leader, and McCarthy seems destined to be the go-between, making him a pivotal figure in Washington’s new political makeup.

Pelosi, on the other hand, has now led congressional Democrats to defeat in four straight elections, and rather than joyfully reclaiming the speakership and helping Clinton enact her agenda, she must once again play defense.

It’s a minor miracle that Pelosi has survived 14 years as Democratic leader, because she saw Republicans control the House for 10 of those years. She was sustained largely by her fundraising prowess, especially in the wealthy Bay Area, having garnered more than a half-billion dollars.

Adeptly shaking the money tree offset Pelosi’s image as the embodiment of liberal coastal elites that Trump – and McCarthy – effectively demonized in this year’s elections, but she’s scrambling a bit to retain her position.

As she scrambled, McCarthy had his fun with her, telling reporters, “I kind of like Pelosi staying around. As long as she’s there, I think we stay in the majority. If I’m being selfish, I truly believe as long as she’s leader we keep the majority.”

While McCarthy was unanimously re-elected as majority leader, House Democrats delayed a leadership vote amid reports of discontent with Pelosi.

“We just had a shellacking. We just got a shellacking last Tuesday. We got an unexpected defeat and we’ve got to recalibrate it and decide how we go forward,” CNN reported as a quote from Rep. G.K. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a Pelosi supporter. “It’s just like death. There are difference stages of grief you go through.”

Although she claims to have pledges from enough Democrats to keep her job, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan announced Thursday he’s running against her, saying, “What we are doing right now is not working.”

Even if she wins, Pelosi may be on a short leash because, like Ryan, many Democrats believe the party must reconnect with blue-collar voters in states that turned Republican, such as Ryan’s Ohio.

In other words, they want their image to be less San Francisco and more Bakersfield.

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