by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The history of Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as speaker is a reminder of the limitations and tenuousness of political victories (and defeats).
I suspect Pelosi is aware of this lesson. I doubt her caucus is. More than a quarter of them are freshmen, many are young, and two are self-avowed democratic socialists. They are inclined to believe history began when Barack Obama entered Mile High Stadium in Denver. It’s an impression encouraged by cable news, which spent the run up to Pelosi’s investiture celebrating the youth, diversity, and ambition of the House Democratic freshmen. And yet, for all the talk of Alison Spanberger and the “Badass Caucus,” of how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib “aren’t going to take no for an answer,” of grand plans for a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, there remains the inescapable reality of power. Democrats don’t really have it. Indeed, they have even less than the last time Pelosi became speaker.
Yes, they can fire their subpoena cannon at the White House. They can interrogate cabinet officials, subpoena Jared and Ivanka, leak scoops to reporters, maybe force a cabinet official or two to resign, if any are left. When Mueller delivers his findings, they could begin impeachment proceedings. But impeachment, like progressive legislation, won’t get far. A decade ago the House could pass bills and hope that Harry Reid would persuade his Democratic Senate majority to support them. All Pelosi had to worry about was President Bush’s veto. Now, Pelosi has to deal with Mitch McConnell’s Republican Senate even before her policies reach Donald Trump.