That name may not jump off the page, but heads nod in recognition when it’s remembered that since 1963, when she married Paul, her last name has been Pelosi. The first line of any bio of her includes: “an American politician.” But, she’s much more than that. She may be the best politician of a generation or two and perhaps, when all is said-and-done, will be listed in the top ten of all-time.
She’s a life-long Democrat and is a lightning rod for ire and venom from Republicans. Republicans don’t like her in office, not because she opposes most every policy they hold dear, but because she is, indeed, so good at her job, making theirs harder.
She comes with a pedigree. Her father was Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. a Baltimore politician from 1939 (a year before Nancy was born) until 1959 when Nancy had already gone off to Trinity University in Washington D.C. to graduate in 1962 with a degree in political science. Thomas was first a U.S. Representative from Maryland (1939-1947) and then capped off his career as Baltimore’s mayor (1947-1959). Nancy grew up with senators, representatives, other mayors, even a governor or two in her living room discussing policy and strategy from the time she could comprehend language. She learned at the feet of political gold. She assisted her father in campaign events and was present at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address.
When she became Nancy Pelosi in 1963, she and Paul moved to San Francisco and they set out on successful careers. Her love of politics, desire to represent, and do good for others never wavered. Accordingly, she began with grass-roots political activity and worked her way into being an elected Democratic National Committee member, then party chair for Northern California, and ended up leading the California Democratic Party. Nancy was elected to Congress in 1987 and has been there ever since.
Her “first evers” began at the turn of the 21st century. She was elected House minority whip, second-in-command to Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), the first woman to hold that lofty post in U.S. government. The next “first ever” was in 2002 when she was elected to replaced Gephardt as minority leader of a major political party.
Pelosi took yet another step toward the top in 2007 when she was elected by her party to be Speaker of the House. She became Madam Speaker of the 110th United States Congress–– second in line of succession to the presidency. Needless to say, the first woman ever in that rarified air. She was relegated back to minority leader in 2011 but regained her speaker position in 2019.
Republicans spit fire and brimstone at her, call her names, cluck at her steadfast liberalism, and make outrageous, unfounded, unproven, and even more telling, unpursued claims about her misuse of her office and money. It is all simply puffing. Conservatives don’t want her in her job, not because she is weak or somehow corrupt, but truly the opposite. They want her out because she is so darned competent. Pelosi is calculating and knows when and how to make political hay. She got challenged for the speakership in 2019 from within her caucus, but she stayed mum, did her work, and won in a landslide. She advised against impeachment again and again throughout 2019 until there were enough facts to get an indictment––the only job of the House in the impeachment process. She got the indictment and held the papers until there was enough new evidence to bolster public support for the Senate to hold its trial. She gets criticized and second-guessed but instead of arguing or getting loud, she simply wins. She has done what the two Republican speakers following her, John Boehner (R-Ohio.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), could not do. In her two tours as Speaker, Pelosi has never lost a floor vote––something at which Republicans can only marvel. Boehner and Ryan had difficulty passing the most straight forward bills, even with a majority of Republican votes.
The House in this 116th Congress has passed some 400 bills. Most, including H.R.-1, a bill that expands opportunity to vote and strengthens ethics rules for public servants, sit unread and unacted upon by the Senate under the direction of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell is unable to match the voting success of Speaker Pelosi, so he doesn’t even try.
Pelosi’s personal life is also successful. She and Paul have five children and nine grandchildren. Madam Speaker is a lifelong, devout Catholic and runs her personal and public life on its tenants. One of the sticking points in today’s politics is accusations of hate being bantered about with regularity. When asked in a press conference recently about hating Donald Trump enough to impeach him, she calmly explained, as she has done before, that she does not hate anyone, her religion taught her not to, adding that she prays for Mr. Trump and our country. Something she also revealed on numerous other occasions. Trump responded that he does not believe her. He wants to cast a shadow that she does hate him and that she never prays for him. He wants desperately for her to be a hater to take some of her sheen away.
It won’t happen.