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By Neera Tanden, president, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Nancy Pelosi — the highest-ranking and most powerful woman to ever hold elected office in American history — at this moment represents the perfect antidote to Trump. After all, from the first day he entered the White House, women have stood at the forefront of the resistance movement against his presidency.
The GOP attempted to make the 2018 elections a referendum on Pelosi’s potential leadership, not for the first time. For more than a decade, Republicans have launched round after round of shameless attacks against her. During the 2010 election, for instance, the GOP poured $65 million into advertisements demonizing her. And by early 2018, one in every three of the party’s ads targeted her in some way or another.
But it was all to no avail: Women voters supported Democratic candidates by the largest margin ever witnessed among midterm exit polls, and November brought a record number of women to Congress—nearly 90 percent of whom are members of the Democratic party.
Now, the same Nancy Pelosi who has often been vilified by the right has just delivered one of the most public defeats to Donald Trump’s presidency and, after the defeat of his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the most consequential in terms of its effect on policy.
It is more than fitting that Trump suffered his most embarrassing loss to date at the hands of an older, more politically-experienced woman. It will assuredly not be his last.
Republicans fear Nancy Pelosi because she has Teflon skin and a spine of steel — and because she is a progressive woman who wields power with supreme potency and without a moment of apology or uncertainty. Winning the speaker’s gavel for a second time reminded us once again of Pelosi’s mastery of the legislative process; last week, the whole country learned that her facing off against President “Art of the Deal” is a lopsided fight and, indeed, almost an unfair one.
Pelosi did not hesitate to confront the president before, during or after the shutdown negotiations; she also called his empty bluff about marching into the capitol to deliver the State of the Union, showing greater command of the rules of the House and the constitution than him and his staff combined. On both occasions, the speaker proved that she is not simply a match for Trump and his allies, but that she is their superior on every level.
The proof is in the pudding: In reopening the government, the president agreed to the same position that Pelosi held from the start. Instead of a beautiful wall, Republicans saw their leader cave.
In the days leading up to Trump’s surrender, Pelosi had already experienced surging approval ratings, while his numbers plunged in the other direction. In some polls, Pelosi has become more popular than Trump, seemingly erasing all those millions of dollars in negative ads in a matter of weeks.
The best part of all? This is just the beginning of Pelosi’s speakership.
With the government reopened, she is in prime position to direct the totality of House Democratic efforts at demanding greater accountability from the president and his entire network — whether it’s finally exposing the full extent of the relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign, investigating allegations of corruption at every level of his administration or obtaining answers about heartless policies, like separating families at the border. I cannot wait to see how she will marshal every tool at her disposal.
And, as Democrats prepare for the 2020 primary and general elections, the leadership of Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.., demonstrates that the party can be confident that it can win a fight against Trump.
At a time when Donald Trump should start focusing on his reelection, the shutdown showdown has produced some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. And because he failed to deliver on his cornerstone promise of building a wall, he may well have fractured his base. Even conservative pundit Ann Coulter is not pleased with his deal making.
In Nancy Pelosi, our country has a perfect example of why we should never choose our leaders because of the attacks by political opponents. We should remember that she, like many other Democratic leaders, has weathered years of disparaging remarks and can still deliver unflinching leadership when our country desperately needs it.
Back in the summer of 2017, Pelosi was asked about her response to critics in the media and within her own party who questioned whether she was worthy of her position among House Democrats in light of Republican salvos against her. She replied: “I’m a master legislator. I am a strategic, politically astute leader”
“[Republicans] will always make a target, ” she added, “and usually they go after the most effective leaders…But I think I’m worth the trouble.”
This past week, the speaker demonstrated — without a shadow of a doubt — that she was absolutely correct.