Littwin: As Perlmutter and friends take a swing at Pelosi, they’re missing the big picture

Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter at an October candidate forum in Denver. (Photo by Evan Semón for The Colorado Independent)

As an aged anarchist at heart (the anti-hierarchy kind, not the throw-bottles-through-storefront-windows kind), I understand the revolt against the assumption that Nancy Pelosi will once again assume the role of speaker of the House. 

It’s not good for Pelosi and her septuagenarian leadership team of Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, or any team for that matter, to run a small-d democratic party for nearly two decades. You need new blood, new points of view, different ways to fight ever-changing battles, generational and racial and ethnic and gender diversity, a pathway for new leaders, and mostly, you need to face up to the danger of investing too much power for too long in any one person or group.

That said, it’s hard for me to think of anything more politically misguided than for the Democratic centrist rebels in the House (with our own Ed Perlmutter among its leaders) to try to kick Pelosi out now.

In 2016, when Perlmutter did nominate Tim Ryan to run against Pelosi, that might have been a good time to change leadership — a new team, though in the minority, to go up against a new president.

Maybe 2020 will be a good time — when a Democrat could reclaim the presidency and maybe even restore our democracy.

Now is a precarious time, an almost certainly counterproductive time, a time far too important to risk the chance of failure or to toss in someone who needs to learn/grow on the job.

In his winning campaign against Mike Coffman, Jason Crow promised to vote for someone other than Pelosi as speaker. That’s what you do when you’re running against a popular incumbent and Republicans are spending millions in your district and across the country — as they have for years — caricaturing Pelosi as a radical and extreme San Francisco liberal.

But why Perlmutter is leading this fight is beyond me. In a statement, he said, “I am grateful for Nancy Pelosi’s leadership and many contributions to our caucus but I have advocated for a change in leadership since 2016 because I think it’s time for a new perspective and someone who represents the change Americans just voted for across the country.”

And yet, he doesn’t have a candidate to back. He’s not running himself. What he is doing, in my view, is completely missing the point. (I talked to his spokeswoman the other day, but Perlmutter was, as they say, unavailable.)

Democrats kept telling us, as politicians tend to do, that this was the most important midterm election in our lifetimes. Donald Trump, in typically Trumpian fashion, said no one had even thought about midterm elections until Trump was the focus of one because, of course, it has to be about him. But I agree with the notion that this election was unusually important and that if Democrats had failed to win back the House, it could have foretold a disaster for the nation. 

Given that and given that hardly any Democrats deny that Pelosi has been an effective leader and, in her time as speaker, a historic figure, I’m puzzled, at minimum, about the timing of the rebellion.

The worst reason — the absolute worst reason — to dump Pelosi is that Republicans don’t like her. I mean, the idea that Pelosi is uniquely an albatross for Democratic candidates is absurd. Yes, her approval ratings are brutally low (29 percent in a Gallup poll last month), but better than Mitch McConnell’s (24 percent). If it weren’t Pelosi being demonized, it would be someone else. Anyone else. Demonizing Democrats, particularly Democratic women, is what Republicans have long done and what Trump specializes in. Clinton, Pelosi, Waters, Warren, whoever. Besides which, in 2020 the election will not be about the House speaker, no matter who it is. It will be about Trump vs. the Democratic nominee. Pocahontas, Crooked Cory, Crazy Bernie, Sleepy Joe and on and on and on.

And then there’s this: The rebellious House Dems have yet to identify anyone who could do a better job taking on Trump. Rep. Marcia Fudge says she is considering a run. She could be a great speaker; she could be a terrible speaker. I have no idea, and I assume Jason Crow has no idea either. Newly elected Joe Neguse, when asked about Pelosi, wisely noted that he had just arrived in Washington. Diana DeGette, meanwhile, is running against Clyburn for majority whip, a race in which she is a considered a long shot.

For context, Democrats should look at the difference between Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the ineffectual Senate minority leader, in dealing with Trump. Pelosi has the brains, the experience and the guts not only to counter Trump but also to take on the Machiavellian McConnell in the Senate. As David Axelrod noted the other day in praising Pelosi’s political ability, Pelosi played the key role in rescuing Obamacare when Democrats lost the 60th vote in the Senate. 

The coming session will be among the trickiest Democrats have ever faced. There’s the impeachment question, of course, which is a terrible idea unless Bob Mueller’s investigation or a House committee delivers a bombshell that convinces a significant majority of people — those who voted for him and against him — that Trump must go now. Pelosi not only knows the difference, she knows the politics. House Democrats will have to navigate that place between being McConnell-like obstructionists and finding places to compromise (no wall, though; whatever else, no wall) if Trump and/or McConnell are ready.

If I were one of the House rebels, I’d try to work a deal with Pelosi, who doesn’t yet have the votes even if she claims she does. She needs a majority of the House, which means she can lose very few Democrats, to win the job. I’d try to convince Pelosi to dump Hoyer and Clyburn and make sure that Pelosi agrees her time as leader is coming to an end. Meanwhile, elect leaders to work with Pelosi who are reflective of the new class of representatives and those who elected them — as Fudge says, more black, more brown, more youthful, more female — and would be ready themselves to succeed Pelosi.

It may be hardball politics, but that’s the way Pelosi has always played it. Which is why Democrats can’t afford to lose her now.


  1. Totally agree with you Mike…then how do we get the message to Ed, to leave it alone until the Nation is out of trouble…? there will be time enough for this…but not now..

  2. Mike, I don’t often disagree with you as much as I do on this issue.

    Yes, as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was VERY effective in passing legislation through the house, and, in normal times, I am sure that she would be very effective in doing so again.

    BUT, these are not normal times. We do not need an effective legislator as Speaker. We need an aggressive champion of the people who is going to stand up to . . . not try to find common ground with . . . Trump (who is an authoritarian) and the Republicans (who are fascists).

    Put simply, Nancy Pelosi is WRONG for this existential moment in history American History.

    Barbara Lee, the only member of either house of Congress who stood up to, and said NO to, the Bush/Cheney administration about the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, has PROVEN that she is the kind of fighter that America needs. If she runs for Speaker of the House, based on that history, alone, she has earned the job.

    If Lee chooses not to run, Tulsi Gabbard has proven herself to be the kind of fighter we need, too. And, as a plus, 2 years as Speaker would set Tulsi up, perfectly, for the Presidency in 2020.

  3. “in democracies, men are placed in office through popular elections. Yet, once
    installed, they are no less in authority than those who get there by other means”
    -Stanley Milgram- Obedience to Authority, 1974, p.179

    Essentially this portrays the democratic process as not being
    the safeguard that many believe it to be with regards to freedom and individual rights.
    It is not the process by which the authority is selected, but the authority itself that
    needs to be scrutinized.
    -Authoritarianism in the 21st centruy-

    “Even despots accept the excellence of liberty. The simple truth is that they wish to keep it for themselves and
    promote the idea that no one else is at all worthy of it.”
    -Alexis de Tocqueville-

    The U.S. was founded on principles of “Liberalism” and “Conservatism” (little related to the empty-rhetoric espoused by modern partisan political parties of the same labels).
    The notion of the “Divine Rights of Kings” was abandoned in the process, as America’s Founders sought rights for all humans, and the constructs for self-government, liberty and justice.
    Yet that notion has come full-circle, now infecting our “democracy”.

    All humans are created equal.

    Yet we still have political Despots whom feel the right to rule over others.
    Authoritarianism and tyranny occur on the “left”, as well as on the “right”.

    Nancy Pelosi is an elitist. She feels the right to maintain long=term rule and “leadership”.
    The Authoritarian personality is frequently identified in those with limited intellect, low moral conscience.
    Authoritarianism begets authoritariansim.
    Those most prone to authoritarianism from above, are most often those seeking the same over others.

    Power is often their only virtue.

    Pelosi is merely an establishment politician.
    “It is not the process by which the authority is selected, but the authority itself that
    needs to be scrutinized. ”
    Her “authority” must be scrutinized.

    Pelosi is a true CAREER politician.
    That is NOT supposed to happen in a true democracy (yes,a “Representative Republic” is a form of democracy).
    She is a true DESPOT.

    She is part of the same elitist military-industrial-technological Iron Triangle complex as the worst of the “GOP”.
    Pelosi and her husband Paul are well-entrenched in the wholly corrupted system.
    They’re profiting off special interest legislation she supports.

    She helps further enrich the neo-feudal Lords of today, she is granted power, privilege and modest but growing wealth in return.
    Similar to the relationships between the Lords and Vassals of medievel feudalism.

    Regardless whether “Dem” or “GOP”, the same ultra-wealthy continue to gain ever-more wealth, the same ultra-powerful gain ever more power.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to lose pace to highly under-reported inflation, as we continue to lose ever more rights, freedoms, liberties,a nd justice.
    And this is why….”leaders” of both sides are bought and paid for by the true ruling elite.

    Those establishment “leaders” exist merely to herd the masses in following a wholly manipulated and corrupted system.
    (I’m including Mafia Don in this as well).

    It’s time to clean the stables.
    The manure has been allowed to sit for way too long.

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
    -Thomas Jefferson-

    It fascinates how the SYSTEM has been so totally manipulated and constructed to lead political followers to submit to that corrupted system.

    Even “Liberals” are now calling for the maintenance of the STATUS QUO, simply out of fear of change.
    Contemporary “Liberals” and “Conservatives” have more in common with each other than either side will ever admit.

    They’ve become mere spectators, mindless followers of the empty-rhetoric of the greater political machine.

    And they’ve both near totally abandoned the true philosophies, ideologies and meanings of “Liberalism” and “Conservatism”.

    “The last thing abandoned by a party is its phraseology, because among political parties, as elsewhere, the
    vulgar make the language, and the vulgar abandon more easily the ideas that have been instilled into it than the
    words that it has learnt.”
    -Alexis de Tocqueville-

  4. Money in equals policy out, and I’m sick and tired of having rainmakers put in position of authority just because they can raise $122 million during the midterms. We cannot continue to allow the wealthy to run our government.

  5. It’s not her fault that she holds her post during the era of Consumers’ United, when Democrats are competing against untold Mammon and need a fund-raiser of their own., Her successes in a hostile, abusive environment prove she is a leader of brains, tenacity, and subtlety. Mere aggression may feel good, but it will give us no answers as long as we have the electoral system that we have, where Dems must win on a tilted table and need to be clever.

  6. Good article. There are clearly a lot of benefits to having an experienced, tough woman as Speaker. It goes without saying that the upper echelons of American “leadership” have needed female members forever. Period.

    I’m not sure Pelosi is correct for the job, however. There are a couple of things that the Dems need to keep in mind.

    They should take a page from Mueller’s book and keep their mouths shut about investigations. Besides, Mueller’s sealed indictments are going to take a lot of that work away in handcuffs. Shortly.

    I believe the Dems best chance of maintaining momentum is to pound the Republicans on their obstructionism on healthcare and the Middle East…two ongoing American tragedies.

    Healthcare is the low hanging fruit. Red states are finally getting the message.

    The middle east is the shitshow. There is broad support from a sizeable portion of the electorate for a retraction of influence and operations in the Sandbox. Quite simply, we’re losing in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Niger, Afghanistan, Egypt and Pakistan. The only progress being made is by the profit takers. We are hated for our footprint in the region.

    The fundamental problem is the support we explicitly give the UAE and Israel and the military industrial complex. One for The Dough (oil) and one for The Show (religion) and one for The No. We can soften our stance in the region without swinging to the isolationist spectrum.

    Our reliance on that region’s oil reserves can finally be weaned without economic Armageddon, or have the oil and gas folks been lying about all that domestic drilling? And guess who’s going to be riding in electric cars in 10 years? Everyone.

    Here comes the uncomfortable part. We have to let the kids make their own mistakes. Israeli apartheid isn’t something we should be supporting anymore than when we supported it in South Africa. That’s the sad truth of it. The Saudi family likewise is a deplorably brutal authoritarian partner with which we shouldn’t have the type of relationship we do.

    Unfortunately, both Schumer and Pelosi have long histories of being on the wrong side of these issues. It’s a problem for both. Public sentiment for supporting those regimes and ME military footprint as currently comprised is very low. Even among American Muslims and Jews. That’s not anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic or anti-defense, it’s anti-Saudi Royal Family and anti-Netanyahu cabinet and anti-military profiteers.

    Those folks need to clean up their acts, and we can let them do that without being in the batter. Their economies and militaries and bottom lines don’t need our tax dollars any longer. We can shift just a small portion of those tax dollars away from the middle east and the military and towards healthcare and STILL GIVE THE MIDDLE CLASS A TAX CUT.

    All that and we can extricate ourselves from a colossal goatfvck that is eating Russia’s lunch and killing our deficit…and guess what…no one’s going to invade the U.S….STILL…and little Billy’s family won’t have to live in a van down by the river because he got cancer.

    Sorry…Nancy is right for the healthcare job and wrong for the middle east fiasco.

  7. I disagree. Pelosi’s only major achievement in her “master legislation” record was The Affordable Care Act, formerly Romney-Care – authored by right wing think tanks. Other “achievements” include, and are more or less restricted to, raising corporate funds. So if raising money from big corporate, and passing a right wing piece of legislation makes you a champion for the left, then I guess she’s our gal. I personally would like more left wing ideas passed around, discussed and debated, rather than folding to the GOP corporate agenda of deregulation and tax breaks for the wealthy. The needle has been ever increasingly shifting to the right, let’s move the needle back to the center, or center-left even.

  8. Nancy is too old.
    The Dimocrats need to set an upper age limit of 56.
    Time for the Boomers and Oldsters to get off the stage.
    Let the Xers take over.

    That said, I would support her for Speaker if she agrees to quit after one week. Let her have her moment of glory and then in with the new.

  9. Then we need to legislate the money out BEFORE we effectively disarm ourselves. Nancy Pelosi is a street smart winner and President Obama endorsed her earlier this week in no uncertain terms.

    Speaking Tuesday in Chicago, Obama hailed Pelosi as “one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen.”

    “Nancy is not always the best on a cable show or with a quick sound bite or what have you,” Obama said. “But her skill, tenacity, toughness, vision, is remarkable. Her stamina, her ability to see around corners, her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done I think stands up against any person that I’ve observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime.”

  10. Who cares if you support her? Calling Democrats “Dimocrats” just shows how little we Democrats value your opinion.

    Perhaps the repubs need to clean house by getting rid of the confederates like Steve King and the racist wing of a party owned by big money. But I won’t hold my breath – repubs are addicted to money and hate.

  11. If you want change, get Dems elected who are not repub lite – like the turncoat Joe Lieberman who sabatoged the ACA by refusing to support single-payer. Pelosi then had to pass what we have now. Still no small feat.

    VOTE Democrat.

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