Nancy Pelosi was a trailblazer. The US is better for leadership

In the demeaning discourse of American politics, it’s easy to characterize a longtime official’s career as “prestigious.” But the adjective is no exaggeration when applied to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced Thursday that she will not seek a leadership role in Congress, which meets in January.

Not only was Pelosi a trailblazer as the first speaker, she also demonstrated exquisite political skill throughout her 35-year career in Congress, which she used to improve the lives of her California constituents and the American people at large.

She was a fearless leader who defied critics even within her own party, let alone the People’s Republic of China. She has been unabashed in her disdain for former President Donald Trump – whose State of the Union address she memorably tore up in 2020 – a principled stance that has earned her the enmity of supporters of the disgraced former president.

Cynics can argue that Pelosi’s departure from the House leadership made a virtue of the fact that Democrats will be in the minority in the next Congress. She might have tried to remain speaker if her party had retained its majority, despite her 2018 assurances that she would step down from the leadership by the end of the current Congress.

But the decision not to seek leadership might also have been easier given the failure of a red wave that didn’t manifest itself in the congressional elections in the way Republicans and many pundits expected. Finally, she understandably wants to support her husband, who was brutally attacked at their San Francisco home by a local terrorist who targeted the speaker.

Whatever the explanation, Pelosi’s decision to step down from leadership, 82, marks the end of a momentous career as party leader. Equally significant, in her farewell speech, she called for the transition to “a new generation at the helm of the Democratic Party.”

Though Pelosi has shown no signs of an age-related incapacity, leading Congressional Democrats — as well as President Joe Biden, who turns 80 on Nov. 20 — are much older than many of the party’s constituents. It is not age-appropriate to welcome a generational change in the leadership of either party.

In her speech on Thursday, Pelosi noted how the ranks of women Democrats in Congress had expanded throughout their careers. The prominence of women in key positions—from Pelosi to Vice President Kamala Harris to incoming Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, another member of the House of Representatives from California—represents a profound advance toward equality. Pelosi promoted and personified that advance.

But Pelosi also stood in the long tradition of civil servants for whom the term “professional politician” is not a derogatory term. Pelosi came to this calling partly as a family heir. In her speech, she recalled attending Congress when her father, a future mayor of Baltimore, was sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives.

Whether or not involvement in politics is a family affair, officials like Pelosi who use their mastery of the legislative process to improve the lot of their fellow citizens deserve praise and thanks, not “populist” disparagements.

– Los Angeles Times