After a beating like the one that the Democrats just took, Speaker Pelosi should have been headed to the exits. Despite the rash of media articles and profiles touting her genius, her record has been fairly miserable with Republicans temporarily managing to hold House majorities under Republican presidents. After 2020, the Democrats will only have a narrow majority in the House, one they’re all but destined to lose. Pelosi was widely resented even before this, now she ought to be gone.
But Pelosi has held on to the speakership for two reasons.
1. Democrats run on money from San Francisco and New York. Schumer is the link to the New York money. It’s why he’s the Senate Minority Leader. Pelosi is the link to the San Francisco money and it’s why she’s House Speaker.
The New York-San Fran Dem leadership shows who really runs the party. It’s not Pelosi or Schumer. It’s a small number of very wealthy donors who call the shots. Pelosi is just a proxy for them. She can be replaced, but it’s not as if the SF Dem delegation has a lot of promising alternatives. And that brings us to part two.
2. There’s no one to replace her.
The House Democrats, like the rest of their party, are sharply divided between the socialists and the old line party bosses. And the bosses use that to stay in power. Why did Biden become the Democrat nominee? Because the alternative was Bernie. Why is Pelosi staying on? Because the alternative is AOC.
That polarization is typical of contemporary politics. But it’s also an old gambit.
Pelosi cultivated the Squad because she understands that they help keep her in power. The worse AOC, Tlaib, and Omar behave, the more Democrats will rely on the old gang like her to keep them at bay. The game of cultivating radicals to keep yourself in power can be a dangerous one. In Germany, it ended with the rise of Hitler, and in Russia with the rise of the Bolsheviks, but Pelosi isn’t playing the long game. She’s just maneuvering the pieces to keep the big chair.
And she’s likely to keep it because the Democrats are corrupt and radical.