Beating up Nancy Pelosi

Apparently feisty and fighting women enrage the GOP and their corporate sponsors. That’s one conclusion to be drawn by reports that more money was spent, and more commercials aired, attacking the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, than any other congressional leader – ever.

From January through November’s Election Day, more than $65 million was spent on 161,203 ads smearing Madam Speaker, according to a CNN-sponsored study. The money came from GOP candidate’s campaigns, the Republican Party and so-called independent groups that supported the Republicans. The huge amount of cash that flooded into the midterm election campaign from corporate and other elite coffers were largely afforded secrecy by the recent Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

But anti-Pelosi ads really started in the spring of 2009 with the launch of the GOP’s “Pussy Galore” smear. After Pelosi said the CIA misled congressional leaders (actually she said they lied) on torture and water-boarding interrogation techniques, the Republicans quickly scurried at the chance of vilifying Pelosi. They ran an ad equating Pelosi with a female criminal from Ian Fleming’s James Bond series vulgarly named “Pussy Galore.” Ms. Galore may have been the mildest and earliest Republican ejaculations. “Bitch,” “hag,” and “Wicked Witch” were to follow.

Pelosi’s polling numbers, along with Congress as a whole – and the GOP’s – plummeted. And the woman who was a chief architect of the Democrats winning in 2006 became a pariah for many. Being a woman from San Francisco (insert the coded words and images here) in the age of divisive tea party politics became the main narrative, and too many voters bought it.

Despite it all Pelosi proved to be a most effective House Speaker, moving and passing legislation that had stymied previous Congresses and administrations. Her tenacious leadership on health insurance reform changed the course of that struggle from hopelessness to hope and victory.

Many credit her skill and leadership in passing legislation that saved and created jobs (obviously not enough), invested in infrastructure and green jobs, curbed Wall Street and saved the U.S. auto industry.

But tradition’s chains bind many in Washington. After the defeat of so many Democrats during the midterms, the scuttlebutt was Pelosi would fade into history and do the gentlemanly thing and give up her hard-won leadership stripes to a more GOP-appeasing group of Dems.

Pelosi had something else in mind and announced she would run for House Minority Leader. Preparing for a big fight on job creation, taxes, Social Security, Medicare, Wall Street and insurance reform, Pelosi chose to tough it out and in the words of AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka continue to be a “tireless champion for working families,”  a “consensus and coalition” builder.

So far, there is no Democratic opponent to Pelosi’s bid. But there has been talk about conservative Democrat Heath Shuler of North Carolina making a run, and other centrists like Reps. Mike Quigley of Illinois and Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania are voicing “discomfort” about Pelosi’s bid.

Labor unions, progressive Democrats and other groups are launching a Thank Nancy Pelosi campaign, urging voters to tell Democratic congresspeople that Pelosi was an effective Speaker, and will be just as effective as an opposition leader. After all, they say, she “mans up.”

Photo: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic women Members hold a press conference to urge Senate Republicans to stop blocking job creation legislation, June 24, 2010. (Speaker Pelosi)



Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano had been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor, and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by the International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women, and Illinois Woman Press Association.