Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
Nancy Pelosi is the highest ranking women in the country, third in line for the presidency. She fulfills a path started ninety years ago, when Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress. Now a woman holds the top position, wielding the gavel as Speaker of the House. Sixty-six year old Nancy Pelosi, has been training for this job all her life. The youngest child, and the only daughter in a family of six children, she learned her way in a man’s world. She learned politics in the living room of her family’s Baltimore row house. She watched her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., a Democratic Congressman and mayor. She practiced her penmanship recording entries in her fathers “favor file,” a handwritten ledger that tracked all the things her father did for people. Pelosi understands that the favor bank is the way political business works. Rep. Jim McDermont said, “She understands you put in, you put in, and then at some point you say, ‘I need a favor’.” She has been socking away favors for twenty years. She raised more than fifty million this election cycle. Her own district safe, she spent the campaign on the road seeking votes and donations for others.
Nancy Pelosi was elected to Congress when she was forty-seven years old, after years as a mother, Democratic Party official and fund raiser in California. She frequently reminds audiences of her domestic roots, threatening to use her “mother of five voice” if the crowd becomes too noisy. She controlled the Democrats with the disciple of a mother of five. Under Pelosi’s leadership, the Democrats voted together eighty-eight percent of the time last year. Her brother, former Baltimore Mayor, Thomas D’Allesandro III said, “She knows how to read people. She got that from my father. She’s not confrontational. She tries to seek consensus.” Consensus is exactly what she will need to pass her first One Hundred Hour agenda. As one of her first acts she will push to raise the $5.15 an hour minimum wage. Pelosi’s district, San Francisco, is one of the most liberal in the country. She said that conservative critics are “afraid of the fact that every child in San Francisco has health insurance, that our minimum wage is over $8 an hour.” She will have to balance the liberal values of her district with that of the rest of Congress. She wants to govern a bipartisan congress that works together to get things done. She said, “We’re talking about opening congress. It may have worked for them (Republicans) to consolidate their power, but it isn’t right and it isn’t what the American people expected.” She made it clear, “There’s not going to be any impeachment. That would make the Republican’s day…What we are about is the future.”
But don’t think that all this talk of consensus means Nancy Pelosi will always play nice. Former Marine, Congressman Murtha described her, “she is tougher than hell…I heard her tell one guy, if you’re not with us, we’re not with you.” Rep, Jim McDermott said, “You can be sure she’ll remember if you don’t do the right thing.” Pelosi will need that kind of discipline if she is she is to clean up the ethical problems that have infected Congress, fulfill the oversight duties that Congress has neglected, and pass the kind of legislation that will get Democrats elected in 2008. GOP strategist, Vin Weber warned, “If Republicans believe the caricature of Nancy Pelosi as a whacked out San Francisco liberal, they are going to find out it’s not true and (will) underestimate her…she comes from a family famous for having extraordinary practical political skills.” A woman with “practical political skills” is exactly what the Democrats need now.