AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Late last week, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi formally announced that she would officially step down from leadership, marking an end to a two-decade reign as the top House Democrat. While elected Democrats and the mainstream media have unsurprisingly heaped praise on the 82-year-old Californian, gushing about the “historic” nature of her speakership, the harsh reality is that Pelosi’s tenure was marked by some of the most disastrous decisions in U.S. history, the radicalization of the Democratic Party, and the degradation of American political culture more broadly.
Pelosi has often said that her entire approach to governance can be summarized by a vital lesson her father taught her in her formative years: “No one is going to give you power. You have to seize it.” From the time she first rose to prominence as the House Minority Leader in 2003, Pelosi has taken that refrain to heart, constantly clawing for as much power as possible. While in the minority, Pelosi had a limited ability to stop Republican legislation. But where she could cause the GOP headaches, she did, including on popular border security and Social Security reform measures.
Democrats finally won back the House majority in 2006, handing Pelosi the Speaker’s gavel for the first time, and she was reelected in 2008. The defining moment of her first tenure as Speaker would come in 2010 with the passage of Obamacare. With large Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, a Democrat in the White House, and a liberal Supreme Court, Pelosi mortgaged the political future of dozens of House Democrats to ram through a gargantuan and deeply unpopular bill that upended the American healthcare system.
In defending the legislation, Pelosi inadvertently let slip one of her most infamous quotes: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” When Americans did find out, they were none too happy, and Democrats lost 63 House seats later that year.
For most politicians, such a historic defeat would have been a career-ender. But to Pelosi’s credit, she proved herself a survivor, hanging on to control of the Democratic caucus. Perhaps even more impressively, Pelosi managed to maintain control through three more losing election cycles for House Democrats.
In 2018, Democrats finally managed to win back control of the House, with a big assist from a media desperately spreading conspiracy theories about Donald Trump and “Russian collusion.” But even though Pelosi had seemingly led her party out of the political wilderness, her re-election as Speaker was far from assured. That was because 2018 also saw the rise of the progressive movement within the Democratic Party with the election of figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan who demanded younger leadership that would likely be more amenable to their demands.
In order to hang on to power, Pelosi struck a deal with the progressives that Donald Trump would come to call “the corrupt bargain.” In exchange for their support of her Speakership, Pelosi would embrace their radical agenda and far-left progressivism would become the de facto position of the Democratic Party. Just as she had throughout her whole career, Pelosi showed she was willing to sacrifice anything, even her own previously-held policy beliefs, to cling to power. As part of this deal, Pelosi also promised to step down by 2022 – one promise she actually kept.
Once back in power, Pelosi relentlessly politicized every last legislative tool at her disposal. She used her position to strip minority legislators from committee assignments and launch a series of endless and largely baseless investigations into the Trump administration. Most infamously, she is the only Speaker in history to preside over two failed impeachments of the same president. Despite constantly lecturing the country about “democratic norms” and the “death of civility” in politics, Pelosi also directly contributed to deepening political divisions, including throwing a temper tantrum and tearing up President Trump’s State of the Union Address on national television.
It was also during this time that the Democratic caucus descended into the depths of left-wing extremism, as members of “the Squad” called for defunding the police, spewed antisemitic rhetoric, and pushed ludicrous environmental pipe dreams. Pelosi often quelled the protests of other more moderate members, making clear that it would be AOC and her ilk, not old-school more moderate Democrats, who would be the future of the party.
Voters delivered a stinging rebuke of this more radical direction in 2020, nearly erasing Democrats’ House majority even as Joe Biden won the White House and Democrats flipped control of the Senate. Again, Pelosi had clearly failed, and yet still she remained atop the House Democratic caucus.
Now working with a slim majority of just a handful of seats, the progressive faction of the party was more powerful than ever, and Pelosi was more than happy to oblige their every whim. Over the past two years, House Democrats have passed the most extreme slate of legislation in American history, ranging from a bill that would federalize elections and mandate universal mail-in voting and ballot harvesting to multiple multi-trillion-dollar spending packages that have sent inflation skyrocketing. After vocally opposing big spending policies during the Bush administration and ridiculously criticizing the Trump tax cuts for being “fiscally irresponsible,” Pelosi has now overseen one of the largest unfunded spending sprees in U.S. history – more than $10 trillion since Biden took office.
Unsurprisingly, voters again fired Pelosi earlier this month and are sending a Republican House majority back to Washington in January. Pelosi’s second term as Speaker will end much the same as her first, with the American people sending a clear message that she has failed.
Of all the things Pelosi did in Congress, however, the most damning indictment of her leadership might be the decline in the state of the country under her watch. Her tenure saw the collapse of middle America, the outsourcing of manufacturing, complete congressional abdication on border security, and the erosion of the American Dream more generally.
Arguably the most ignominious factor for her pseudo-retirement is to whom she leaves her position. Instead of handing party leadership to longtime second-in-command Steny Hoyer, her most loyal lieutenant, the radical-left Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is poised to assume control of the caucus. Nancy Pelosi may be riding off into the sunset, but she’s leaving her party and her country in the darkness she has left behind.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.