Nancy Pelosi’s approval ratings are plummeting. Republicans (and anyone with some sense) have never liked her, but now even her own party wants to show her the door.
There’s one slight problem, though: there is no alternative.
After leading the House Democrats for 15 years, the San Francisco stalwart has total control of her caucus and is a massive fundraising force that her party cannot easily replace. And as the first female Speaker of the House (2007-2011), she has unique status and an array of female supporters, both inside and outside Congress.
Willie Brown, the first African-American mayor from Pelosi’s hometown, cautions in his latest column in the San Francisco Chronicle that those who want to replace Pelosi should be “careful what you ask for. You might wind up with even less.” He argues that Pelosi’s likeliest replacement would be House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who would not bring anything new to the job: “The 78-year-old Hoyer is no new face or change agent, and neither are any of the other Democrats in the leadership line.” Pelosi, he argues, is “the only Democrat in the House who can command national attention,” and no one else in the party “can match her work ethic or fundraising prowess.”
Even after losing control of the House in 2010, Pelosi still clung to power for dear life. And she has continued to do so in every election since then.
It’s an oddity that her power within her caucus seems to have grown the more her party lost.
Democrats are drawn from the same narrow urban base that she is from, that gave her power to begin with, so maybe it’s not as strange at second glance.
And running against the Queen of Dems is almost political suicide. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) ran against her in 2011. The following year, he lost his seat to a Republican. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) challenged her last November, and his national profile is little to none at this point.
She’s also strengthened her position by promoting members of key constituencies in the party. She has also gained support by holding out the prospect of younger members serving in leadership roles.
If she is to leave, it would most likely be after the next election, too late to save the Dems’ 2018 prospects. Democrats can work to find a new candidate, but Pelosi will be doing everything in her power to prevent that. And, as we said before, she has a lot of that.