A Sub-Par Negotiator, Nancy Pelosi Has Got to Go as House Speaker

Often lauded as the chief-actualizer of the Democratic policy agenda, Pelosi’s losing battle against the GOP for coronavirus relief is only her latest failure. It’s time for new congressional leadership.

Zach Salcido
8 min readDec 7, 2020

Slated for re-election as House Speaker in 2021, Biden’s Administration will mark the third straight president in which Pelosi will be at the helm of the House of Representatives. Now 80 years of age, older than the current and incoming presidents, Pelosi has cemented a reputation in D.C that is primarily defined by her apparent ability to keep her ducks in a row, to surgically maintain and manufacture the party’s votes in her chamber so as to advance the Democratic establishment’s agenda. Pelosi’s demonstrable success with respect to policy during her first years as Speaker, such as gaining party support for the Obama stimulus package or resisting urges within the party to scale back healthcare reform, undoubtedly helped craft this reputation. Those days of her legislative effectiveness and ability to direct Democrats in an orderly and unidirectional manner are over.

After a massive conservative reshaping of the Judiciary, a horrendously bloated and disproportionately effective tax bill, and an unprecedented failure of the federal government to adequately respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Nancy Pelosi helmed the presumable loss of at least 13 House seats for Democrats in a year where the Democratic candidate for president won with 306 votes in the Electoral College. The Democrats’ lead in the House was slashed this election as they currently hold 222 seats, only four more than is needed to hold a majority in the chamber and a much smaller margin than their historic haul in the 2018 midterms.

Her refusal to accept responsibility for these losses is a perfect encapsulation of the tendency of Democratic leadership to deflect blame to anyone but themselves or their strategic decisions. This tendency, the sort of consciously disingenuous grifting and scapegoating on the part of Democratic Party elites like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi culminates in headlines such as these in the wake of poor results in the House of Representatives:

Pelosi was less than defiant in her willingness to sign off on Trump’s laundry list of requests in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA), granting him essentially everything that he wanted in the $738 billion defense bill. Much to the chagrin of the Progressive wing of the party, the bill had no revision to the US involvement in war in Yemen and even allocated funds for Trump’s border wall. And to cap it all off, Pelosi signed this massively flawed piece of legislation on the heels of voting to impeach Donald Trump, the third president in American history to be successfully impeached.

Pelosi also tucked a Patriot Act extension into a government funding bill in 2019 that was a must-pass for both parties in Congress, granting continuation to the federal government’s unconstitutional mass-collection of digital metadata that was exposed by former NSA employee Edward Snowden in 2013. This political calculus on the part of Speaker Pelosi is similar to her recent unwillingness to accept the $1.8 trillion stimulus counter-offer from the White House back in October. Her idea, presumably, is that even as the coronavirus continues to ravage the United States, the importance of the Georgia Senate runoff elections rises to the point to which holding off on a second round of stimulus checks for risk of further helping Republican turnout in those races is deemed politically advantageous. Originally stating that she would “settle” for a $3.4 trillion stimulus package back in August, Pelosi has now been cornered into talks to pass a bill in the range of less than $1 trillion that doesn’t even include another round of $1,200 checks for Americans.That isn’t principled pushback, that isn’t good-faith recalcitrance, that is just poor negotiation.

There is no difference between the recent critiques from former President Obama and Rep. Jim Clyburn on the impact of the “defund the police” slogan on elections and Pelosi’s unwillingness as a Democratic Party leader to admit that the centrist-conservative rhetoric that they endorse is costing the Democrats seats in Congress. The fact of the matter on rhetoric is that the majority of Americans support policy like Medicare for All, ideas that are incredibly underrepresented in both chambers of the Congress. It is a substantially arguable point to consider how much Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib’s wins in Minnesota and Michigan respectively helped Joe Biden carry the states in the Electoral College. These members represent the clear ideological minority within the chamber. It is important to emphasize the utter insanity of the supposed “liberal” party’s inability to even produce a floor vote on the bill. There is absolutely zero shot that the bill would pass through a McConnell Senate, but the onus and political pressure would be on him and the GOP, rather than on the Democrats. Nancy Pelosi’s $120 million net worth is not the background that reflects an American electorate where Progressive ideas are more popular than not.

The idea that Progressive policy proposals like the Green New Deal and Medicare For All and some level of free higher education are unpopular and will lose the broad appeal of voters is simply not supported by any statistics, and amount to nothing more than anti-leftist ultra-conservative talking points from the likes of the Heritage Foundation. Establishment Democrats currently do most of the negative propaganda legwork for the Republicans, which is political suicide for marketing your party’s policy. Polling on Medicare for All shows us that a large portion of the electorate understands that private healthcare companies are draconian cash-grab middlemen that literally profit from rationing and shorting medical care wherever and whenever they can. Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, has pocketed millions in contributions from drugmakers and Big Pharma.

Pelosi has very clearly expressed her policy as House leader to always support incumbent members in the event of their seats being challenged in the primaries, and when Rep. Joe Kennedy III announced a bid to primary the Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a Progressive and one of the original cosponsors of Medicare for All, Pelosi broke her own rule and threw her support behind the challenger. She doubled down on her decision to direct the funding and overall support of the DCCC to the challenger and establishment darling Joe Kennedy III, who took years to finally endorse the bill and who would almost certainly be more malleable in terms of his level of commitment to the policy itself. Markey would go on to beat Rep. Kennedy III by over 11 points and beat his Republican opponent by 33 points.

This illogical and self-contradicting disdain for the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party manifests itself in many ways, primarily through the rejection of any policy that attempts to redirect this country’s national resources to more directly serve the majority of people rather than the corporations and industrial capitalists that establishment Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are so beholden to. In this way, our top Democrats are no different than the Republican Party. These top-ranking Democrats in the Senate and House are much more willing to cooperate with and acquiesce to the Republican Party than they are with a wing of their own party.

The Democratic electorate frankly deserves better than a leadership cadre who time and time again signs off on the conservative agenda with little to no pushback, while undercutting Progressive policy that the majority of Americans support. Leaders like Nancy Pelosi’s disillusionment with the average American’s experience is abundantly clear when she engages in embarrassing performative photo ops like kneeling in African kente cloth to somehow honor the late George Floyd after he was murdered by the police. One of the most legislatively and politically powerful human beings in the entire country, she seems to be much more concerned with performative politics and photo op tokenism than she is with, say, reining in the militarization of the police, or delivering stimulus checks and small-business relief regardless of whatever political punishment she has convinced herself that she will suffer.

Presumably her last tenure as House Speaker, it would actually greatly help Pelosi’s legacy to pass the torch to a younger member of her chamber who is more apt to understand the legislative potential of the position as well as having a better connection to the average American experience. There is no shame in stepping aside for the newer generations of politics, the generations who will live to bear the burden of our currently inadequate climate response and other longterm policy failures. As the Democrats attack Kelly Loeffler’s disconnection with the American experience with her massive $800 million dollar fortune, it would behoove all Democratic Party leadership to be introspective and ask just how far away from middle class voter values they have strayed themselves. If the Democrats don’t win those two Georgia seats in the runoff elections, the opposition from the Republicans in the Senate will certainly not lessen in any respect.

Despite what many argue regarding the friendship between Mitch McConnell and President-Elect Joe Biden, the Senate Majority Leader has the blueprint for tallying wins against the Democrats even when they hold the Oval Office. He did withhold a rightful Obama Supreme Court nomination from getting confirmed in Merrick Garland, after all. McConnell vowed revenge on the Democrats in 2013 when Harry Reid changed a Senate rule threshold for confirming most judicial nominees from 60 to 51 votes:

McConnell tells Reid and the Democrats simply, “You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.”

Mitch McConnell turned out to be precisely correct. Trump and the Federalist Society in just four years managed to get three ultra-conservative SCOTUS Justices and a supposed laundry list of right-wing objectives to achieve in constitutional law. Mitch McConnell knows how to play ball and win showdowns, and Nancy Pelosi has essentially been a useful idiot for the Republicans, who have won more than they have lost against her in the Trump era. If the Democrats want to take advantage of a Joe Biden presidency, they need someone that is willing to get into the ring with Mitch McConnell and win these political spars for policy actualization. Nancy Pelosi’s bedazzled vote masks and performative stunts aren’t helping the American people get much-needed coronavirus relief checks, they didn’t help the underlying systemic issues that led to the murder of George Floyd, and the Democrats deserve someone who will fight for those things that truly matter and immediately change the lives of the less enfranchised Americans.



Zach Salcido

Oregon Law student. Interested in writing about politics, public policy, and law.