This is the first, maybe not the last, election cycle when Pelosi is the Republicans' favorite whipping post, and not only in close House races. The hostility toward her is palpable in political ads, on hateful talk radio, and stump speeches from as far north as Wisconsin down to the Deep South. She's not officially on any ballot as speaker, but opponents have framed the midterm as a national referendum on her along with the president.
The subtext is: Ladies and gentlemen, this San Francisco liberal is running the country's business. (That's putting it politely.) She'll take us off the deep end. Strangely, the Republican campaign strategy and rhetoric is not as personal against President Barack Obama himself. To be sure, he takes lots of hits every day out there. But there's something about Pelosi that some love to hate. It's all the rage this political season.
What could it be? Let the record reflect Pelosi is a woman on the national stage who is extremely good at her job. We don't have to hark back far to see that Hillary Clinton--as first lady, senator, and presidential candidate--absorbed the brunt of a lot of the same anger for about 15 years. Public sympathy for her developed during her husband's impeachment--but when she refused to surrender late in the race against Obama in 2008, fury rained down on her in some quarters, among Democrats and Republicans alike, as if she didn't know her place. In the end, Obama found the best place at the White House table for her: secretary of State. And now Clinton is riding high in approval ratings at home and abroad. For the most part, the American people are happy to have her just where she is.
But those who made sport of vilifying Clinton found another target: the polished Pelosi, an unapologetic liberal who proved a force when it came to passing the House healthcare bill. Her political enemies got it wrong by writing her off as San Francisco liberal. In fact, she was born and raised in Baltimore, where her father was mayor. In a port city of ethnic enclaves, her family lived in Little Italy, where her father orchestrated the politics of that thriving Democratic stronghold.
So Pelosi is as hard-headed as they come. She says she takes all the static--from those who want to take her down as speaker--as a compliment. In the ultimate proof of her her practicality, she tells House Democrats to oppose her if they want--just get re-elected.
The speaker of the House can take the heat.