IT’S TIME FOR Nancy Pelosi to go. Past time, really.
It would have been appropriate for her to say goodbye after the Republicans took control of the House — ending her speakership — with their big 2010 midterm victory.
Instead, Pelosi stuck around as minority leader, hoping for a return to power. It didn’t come in 2012, despite President Obama’s solid reelection victory. Nor did it come in 2014.
This year was another disappointment. Despite early talk of possibly retaking the House — or short of that, making a big bounce back — the Democrats have seemingly gained only six seats, leaving them far from power.
It’s now time to give someone else a chance.
That’s happened in the Senate. Minority leader Harry Reid, 76, opted not to run for reelection this year. But in the House, Pelosi, also 76, wants to hang on.
She hoped to force a quick election for the Democratic leadership post, a tactic she’s used in the past. That hurry-up offense helps her, because it leaves potential opponents little opportunity to organize. But House Democrats balked, insisting they need more time to mull matters. As a result, the vote won’t be held until the end of November.
Pelosi has tried to scare off any competition, claiming in a Wednesday letter that she had the support “of more than two-thirds” of the House Democratic Caucus. But on Thursday, Ohio Representative Tim Ryan announced he was making the plunge. Certainly displacing Pelosi will be an uphill battle. Leadership struggles generally are, because the bulk of the membership waits to see if a challenger is viable before abandoning their current leader.
Still, Democratic congressfolk, who have given heavily from their campaign committees to boost Team Pelosi’s take-back-the-House efforts, only to see those prospects recede like a mirage in the electoral desert, are stewing with frustration.
The issue of leadership has become more urgent as members consider how to reconnect with the white working-class voters who powered Donald Trump to victory. That’s a problem
Ryan has highlighted. And it’s certainly hard to see Pelosi as the answer to that puzzle.
“She is likely to win this again, but there’s a lot of heartburn in the caucus,” says one congressman. “There’s broad agreement we need a strategic shift.”
And that gives Ryan a fighting chance. But there’s a better solution here: Rather than have her party engage in a bitter intramural battle, Pelosi should recognize that, after 14 years helming House Democrats, it’s time to let new leaders emerge.
Simply put, she should step aside.
She has much to be proud of. She made history as the first woman to lead a party in Congress and as the first female speaker. She played a key role during the Obama era.
But no one in public life is indispensable. In parliamentary systems, party leaders often resign their positions after their governments fall or their electioneering efforts come up short. That’s a healthy custom. It lets parties recalibrate in a way that’s otherwise difficult to do. And congressional Democrats need to do just that.
As for Pelosi, opportunities abound for someone with her skills, knowledge, connections, and fund-raising ability. Who knows, she could even run for governor of California. After all, the Golden State seems to value leadership from liberals in their golden years.
Scot Lehigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.