Giddy Lefties All Over the Hill

SHARE

Feelings of relief and glee are so thick among progressives on Capitol Hill that one feels as if one has to navigate over and around them to maneuver one's path through the hallways.

Yesterday I attended the swearing-in celebration for Rep. Hilda Solis, a California Democrat, complete with a mariachi band and a roomful of exultant Californians.

This morning I went to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "People's House" breakfast in the Cannon Caucus Room.

I can't speak for how conservatives felt when Newt Gingrich took over as speaker in 1995 (after he orchestrated the Republicans' 1994 election victory), but I've got to believe this must be a sort of mirror image.

Once again, women and persons of color are in fashion, having felt frozen out and decidedly unfashionable since early 2001. During that time, Congress and the White House, too, were firmly under the control of the GOP's far-right wing.

Pelosi was wise to use the occasion to set up four days of nonstop celebrations to coincide with her ascension to power. The video of her banging the gavel on the House floor, surrounded by children, will be emblazoned in the minds of young Americans for generations to come, much as the video of female House members climbing the Senate steps to demand a hearing on allegations of sexual harassment against then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas is emblazoned in mine.

For the moment, at least, initial missteps on leadership decisions (Rep. John Murtha et al.) are behind her, overshadowed by cagey promotion of her historic speakership. Let's hope she and other Democratic leaders have learned the lesson of overreach: Their victory was more a reflection of voters' disgust with Republican extremism than an endorsement of left-wing Democrats' concern. Any lurch too far to the left, and Democrats could easily lose the gains made in November.

Meanwhile, Pelosi is already having an effect in ways she may never get to experience for herself. I addressed a young women's leadership group this morning after leaving the Pelosi breakfast. One African-American college student told me she has decided on a career in politics rather than law, as a result of Pelosi's role-modeling. That right there is worth more than all the government subsidies left-wing Democrats hope to wring out of Pelosi's speakership.