Why Nancy Pelosi remains leader of House Democrats despite huge loss
Nancy Pelosi wins her bid to remain leader of the House Democrats, as leadership on both sides of the aisle remains largely the same – despite Election 2010's mandate for change.
Call it a triumph of inside politics. While midterms 2010 felt like a tsunami outside of Washington, the waves didn’t reach Capitol Hill's corner offices, where House leadership teams in both parties barely budged.Skip to next paragraph
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Just minutes later, incoming 61st Speaker John Boehner – who overcame tea party critics and ambitions in GOP leadership ranks – was unanimously confirmed as Republican leader, while celebrating his 61st birthday and, at latest count, his party’s 61-seat net gain.
Managing the aspirations unleashed by a big victory can be as challenging as containing the rifts opened by a big loss. In both cases, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Boehner made it look easy – a sign of how deeply entrenched leadership on both sides of the aisle has become.
“Usually, you bet on the establishment in congressional politics,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Pelosi and Boehner are strong congressional leaders and powerful insiders. They know how to survive these moments of turmoil.”
“Boehner gave tea party candidates enough promises that they will be heard and at the same time reminding all the other Republicans of what they owe him and what he can do for them – and the combination is enough to retain leadership,” he adds.
Pelosi challenged from the right
For Pelosi, the challenge was to manage disappointments across the broad spectrum of her caucus. Progressives, led by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D) of Oregon and Marcy Kaptur (D) of Ohio, called for a delay in the leadership vote to give members more time to consider their options.
“When you have taken the largest losses of any majority in my lifetime, you better undertand the reasons for that loss,” said Congressman DeFazio, in a briefing with reporters during a break in today’s caucus meeting.
“Republicans did not win this election, the Democrats lost it,” added Congresswoman Kaptur. “Voters will press that reset button every single election until we address serious economic concerns.”
The measure failed on a secret ballot, 129 to 68.