by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Nancy Pelosi made news late last month, and not in a good way. She was caught on a security camera having her hair done at a San Francisco salon that has been closed to the public during the coronavirus lockdown. When confronted with the footage, she did not apologize for the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do impression, but rather expressed outrage at the salon owner for setting her up.
If you have followed Pelosi’s career over the past 15 or so years, the whole affair was hardly a surprise. Pelosi is one of the most unpopular figures in the last decade of American politics. According to RealClearPolitics, her average favorability rating stands at just 38%, compared to a 52% unfavorable rating — numbers that are worse than President Trump’s at the time of writing. …
… The great irony of Pelosi’s career is bound up in the institution of Congress. The task of endearing herself to her party’s base, and thus a majority of the Democratic House caucus, has alienated the broad middle of the country. Her political eye has never really been toward winning over the majority per se, but rather a majority within the majority. A lot of this is just built into the nature of the House of Representatives itself: The majority party holds virtually all of the power, so the task of the leader is to pursue the interests of the majority, as defined by the caucus itself. But extreme polarization over the past few decades has resulted in a speaker who often seems wildly out of step with the rest of the country. She is an embodiment of that polarization: One of the most powerful figures in American politics is also one of the most consistently disliked because the ideological extremes exercise undue influence over the process.