Pelosi’s Challenge


The shut down is over, and despite the bluster, it’s not going to start up again.  It’s a political loser for President Trump, and he knows it.   Senate Republicans would turn on him.  Moreover, the idea of declaring a national emergency is dangerous for the White House.  The President says the odds of a deal being reached are “less than 50-50.”  What next?

The victory glow on Nancy Pelosi for staying firm and keeping her caucus united hasn’t yet faded.   Pundits colorfully claim Pelosi “got Trump’s balls,” with Ann Coulter calling him “the biggest wimp” as President.  Does this mean Pelosi can write the script?

In a word, no.  Her challenge, though, is less with Trump than within her own party.  She prevailed in a bruising battle to remain speaker, and even critical Democrats acknowledge that her political savvy won this battle.   One wonders what she had to promise centrist Democrats friendly to the idea of some kind of wall to keep them in line.  I suspect that she promised “real” negotiations and to make a deal that the President can accept.   She had to win this one or else it would have become clear that Trump could run roughshod over the Democrats, threatening things like a shutdown and watching Democratic cohesion splinter.

Now she has to show the centrists that she listens to them and awards their loyalty due to the shutdown.    If she just defies Trump it’s possible she could win big and have him back down completely.  But it may be better in the long run to give Trump a face saving way out, make gains on policies that can be traded for enhanced border security.


Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the “new progressives,” but they are generating the numbers and political will to try to move the Democrats to the Left.

To be sure, she also has the progressive wing of the party that want total war on Trump, and think the talk should be impeachment.   She has to mollify that wing of the party too, who may grumble that she isn’t “going for the jugular” in negotiations.

Progressives in the party sense that the American public is on their side more than ever, and now is the time for the Democratic party to veer left.  In many parts of the country, that is true – but in vast chunks of the US the Democratic party relies on moderate and centrist voters disturbed by Trump’s incompetence, but not wanting to embrace the left.

Pelosi’s challenge is to keep both wings of her party satisfied enough that the party can stay united.   She has to convince the progressives that with the Senate and Presidency in GOP hands, the only way to get things done is to compromise.  She has to convince centrists that she really is willing to compromise.

There is probably no one better suited to face this challenge than Pelosi.  At 78, she’s already stated that she plans not to stay on as speaker after 2020 – and the country may indeed  be in a very different place at that time.  For now, she’s capping her career with a stellar performance during the shutdown, but to be truly successful she has to have an effective two years both keeping the party together and making compromises when possible.

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