Pelosi's Democrats Will Miss Rahm Emanuel

Obama's party will miss Rahm Emanuel's pragmatism


The most important seat the Democrats lost this year wasn’t monitored during last week’s election. In fact, it was on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. When Rahm Emanuel decided to leave Washington for Chicago, the Democratic Party lost one of its most effective voices of sanity and strategic pragmatism. I was reminded of this when Nancy Pelosi announced her “Cult of Me” campaign to serve as leader of the hapless House Democratic caucus--days after she led her party into the worst scene of carnage visited upon either party since the Great Depression.

[See where Pelosi gets her campaign money.]

Despite the historic losses suffered last week, House Democrats have embraced Pelosi’s Jim Jonesian style of leadership and appear on their way to voting her in for another two years of  Kool Aid drinking and group suicide leading up to 2012.

But why not? Who’s left to stop her? In forcing moderate Democrats to repeatedly walk the plank on overreaching liberal initiatives like cap-and-trade and the healthcare reform bill, Pelosi in effect launched a two-year purge of centrists from her party. It has paid off--for her, if not for her party. She will now lead a more ideologically rigid caucus on a “Screw You, America” agenda of doubling down on the very leftist policies that the voters so overwhelmingly rejected just days ago.

[See a slide show of winners and losers from the 2010 elections.]

Whatever base of moderates that once existed to temper Pelosi’s excesses is now gone. Think of those moderates as Rahm Democrats.

I’m not suggesting that Emanuel was a conservative Democrat. The man’s a Chicago Democrat through and through. However, he’s a shrewd campaign strategist--having learned from one of modern politics’ masters: Bill Clinton. And in 2006, regardless of his personal political views, he recruited a slate of centrist candidates capable of appealing to a center-right nation and pushing out swing-state Republicans during a year when voters had grown weary of Republican spending, corruption, and war.

[See editorial cartoons on the Republicans.]

His strategy--combined with Republican incompetence in governing--lead to nation-wide victories and majority control for the Democrats.

Pelosi misread that victory. In every Democrat, she saw a mini-me. What was good for San Francisco was surely good for the South or the Rustbelt. From his perch as White House chief of staff, Emanuel was a lonely voice surrounded by liberal purists (including the Purist in Chief). His calls to phase in the Democrats’ agenda in smaller increments, his arguments that the public wasn’t ready for a radical far-reaching liberal agenda, were ignored by the purists. The Republicans should be grateful Emanuel was overruled as often as he was. Poor economy or not, the Democrats would not have suffered the losses they did without their antagonistic votes on health careand excessive government spending.

[See editorial cartoons about the 2010 elections.]

As Pelosi’s California mafia in the House now justify her decision to lead Democrats further into the wilderness, we are hearing inanities about the party needing an iron-willed leader like Pelosi. Had she not been as tough as she was, and willing to persevere as she did, had she not been a brilliant leader and master of parliamentary rules, we are told, signature accomplishments like healthcare would have never passed. 

Let’s stop drinking the Kool Aid for a moment.

As Speaker, Pelosi had a huge majority. This is what gave the Democrats their “signature achievements.” Pelosi had the numbers to force legislation like Obamacare through the House and not give a damn what the opposition party or the public or even a significant block of her own party thought about it. And she did.

She can thank Emanuel for that sizable majority. And the Democrats can thank her and Barack Obama for destroying that majority. And evidently they will thank her. Congratulations Minority Leader Pelosi.

  • Check out our editorial cartoons on the GOP.
  • Follow the money in Congress.
  • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our digital magazine.