Melinda Henneberger

Nancy Pelosi has earned that gavel, and the right to train her successor as speaker

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi The Associated Press

Here’s how to resolve the difficult question of whether or not Nancy Pelosi should get the gavel back when her party takes control of the U.S. House in January: All of the Democrats who came up with the idea that congressional candidates should run on rather than run away from the Affordable Care Act for a change in 2018 should by all means step forward to compete for the speakership.

All of you who said as often as necessary that health care, infrastructure and reform were the key issues should raise your hands.

Every one of you who kept telling candidates not to run off screaming about abolishing ICE should not shy away from claiming credit.

And each patriot who, when President Donald Trump said he was going to end birthright citizenship with the stroke of a pen said um, people, he’s trying to distract us from the argument we’re winning on health care, should take a deep bow.

Ideas and strategy and discipline aren’t everything, of course. So yes, everyone who raised anything close to $121.7 million for Democrats this cycle needs to get in this thing without any further delay.

As does anyone with a track record of moving major legislation and never losing a floor vote.

But oh, why are you standing all alone up there, Nancy Pelosi?

Because no one else has done any of this, that’s why. There wouldn’t be a Democratic majority now without all of the above, even if Donald Trump did everything he could to turn out the vote for both parties.

Nor would there have been an ACA to defend, or pre-existing condition protections for some to suddenly claim to care about.

The idea that the first act of House Democrats after the party’s wildly successful year of the woman would be to kick to the curb the woman who did the most to get them there is the kind of thinking that fills public spaces with women in hideous pink hats. But Pelosi’s gender is not why she deserves to get that gavel back.

She’s already said she intends to be a transitional speaker. I do not always agree with Pelosi and have sometimes felt that it was time for new leadership, too. But how she could possibly be denied the chance to hand off the speakership she so obviously earned, not in the distant past but this very month, makes no sense.

Of course, the president says he’d like to have her to run against in two years; is there anything he enjoys more than sharing his rich, deep and always useful thoughts on women?

For more than a decade, the GOP has been investing in campaign ads in which Pelosi has been portrayed as a dragon, a dog and perhaps most often, a witch.

But they will really have succeeded in demonizing her if Democrats themselves fall for their protracted campaign against her at this of all moments.

“There’s plenty of really competent females that we can replace her with,” says Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio. And do some of these females bark and sit and roll over?

Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids, the newly elected Democrat who said she was running because it’s time for new leadership, can live up to her pledge by voting to replace Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who wants to keep his job as Democratic leader, and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, who wants to keep his job as whip.

Despite the enormous obstacles of the gerrymander, Pelosi has fought so hard and so long, in her words ceding no grain of sand, ever. Now she deserves the chance to train her successor.

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