The Republican Party is now clearly the party of Donald Trump.
The Democratic Party cannot be seen as the party of Nancy Pelosi and win in November.
It’s getting close to crunch time, and the San Francisco Democrat must put her party and her country ahead of her personal ambition and declare that she will not seek the speakership again.
This is much bigger than her. To retake control of the House, Democrats need to gain at least 23 seats in November. That’s no easy task. And it’s even more difficult now that Pelosi’s future has become a distracting campaign issue for Democrats in key swing districts, where they need moderate and even Republican votes to win.
So far, 45 Democratic nominees (including Andrew Janz, who is running against Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare) and 10 incumbents (including Rep. Linda Sanchez of Whittier) have publicly said they will not support Pelosi for speaker.
For their part, Republicans are running attack ads that feature Pelosi, as they have for years. And she is frequent target for Trump, who tweeted again on Aug. 10: “Democrats, please do not distance yourselves from Nancy Pelosi…She is trying very hard & has every right to take down the Democrat Party if she has veered too far left!”
On the other hand, Pelosi isn’t doing herself any favors by playing the victim. Asked during a Sunday interview about Democrats opposing her for speaker, she accused MSNBC of being on a “jag” against her. Better than most, she ought to know that’s getting precariously close to Trump calling any critical coverage “fake news.”
Pelosi says that while no one is indispensable, she is still the best person for the job. On Monday, her press office sent out a column in which Paul Krugman of The New York Times praised Pelosi as “by far the greatest speaker of modern times,” and questioned why she gets so little credit from the media for her accomplishments, which include the Affordable Care Act, and the stimulus package and financial reforms after Wall Street’s meltdown. If you’ll recall, similar statements were made about the eminently qualified Hillary Clinton – and we know how that turned out.
Pelosi and other party leaders are trying to get the message out that not only will Democrats oppose Trump and his culture of “corruption, cronyism and incompetence,” they are “for the people” and will push for better health care and more jobs. But the political reality is that she is not the most effective messenger.
While only 34 percent of voters in a new CNN poll say Pelosi will be an extremely or very important factor in their decision, that number will surely go up as GOP attacks begin to take their toll the closer we get to Nov. 6. And Democrats in Congress could certainly use some fresh faces in leadership.
Pelosi became the first female speaker of the House in 2007 after Democrats won a majority in the 2006 mid-term election, but lost the post when Republicans retook the House in 2010. With her three decades in Congress, Pelosi can still have a voice advocating for California and the issues she cares about.
But if she truly believes what she says about how important it is for Democrats to retake the House so they can stop Trump, she must accept that it can’t be with her as speaker.