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Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader!

Advance copy from the November 15, 2010, issue.

5:00 PM, Nov 5, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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THE WEEKLY STANDARD was already in good cheer after Tuesday’s election. But then came the news at the end of the week, as the magazine went to press, that Nancy Pelosi has decided to try to retain her position as the top House Democrat, and will stand for House minority leader in January.

Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader!

Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. Indeed, there are defeated congressmen who—unjustly, to be sure!—actually blame the speaker for their soon-to-be unemployed status.

We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader.

After all, Pelosi has not shied away from the challenges of leadership. She’s gotten major pieces of legislation through the House, even if they were all bad, and unpopular to boot. And as Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues on November 5, “Our work is far from finished. As a result of Tuesday’s election, the role of Democrats in the 112th Congress will change, but our commitment to serving the American people will not. We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back.”

No, indeed. For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress. They must not falter in defending Obamacare, in insisting on tax hikes, in seeking to impose new burdens on the economy, and in trying to undercut our troops in Afghanistan.

House Democrats must reject the counsel of timidity of Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, who said on November 4, “As good a leader as she has been, I don’t think she’s the right leader to take us forward.” Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who now ranks second to Pelosi but who has more moderate inclinations, would be “a perfect spokesman for the Democratic Party in the House,” Yarmuth said.

House Democrats: Ignore that man!

Indeed, House Democrats seem poised to ignore Yarmuth. They seem ready to maintain Pelosi. They may even deprive the moderate Hoyer of his number-two spot.

To which we say, Good for you! Don’t be intimidated by the election returns! Stand by your woman!

It is inspiring to imagine that, at the nominating meeting of the House Democratic caucus, some congressman, echoing Gene McCarthy’s speech for Adlai Stevenson at the 1960 Democratic convention, will stand before the assembly and say: “House Democrats: Do not turn away from this woman. Do not reject this woman. She has fought gallantly. She has fought courageously. Do not leave this prophet without honor in her own party!”

The 1960 Democratic convention rejected McCarthy’s plea, of course. It nominated John Kennedy, who went on to win the presidency. But today’s Democrats seem inclined to avoid following the hard-headed, hawkish, culturally mainstream model of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. Instead, today’s Democrats revel in their status as heirs to Adlai Stevenson. For today’s Democrats, Nancy Pelosi will be an exemplary House minority leader. May she live long and prosper in the job!

—William Kristol

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