I almost never write in the first person in political posts, but I have a confession to make.
Last year, despite my long-time admiration for the tremendous legislative achievements of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I was wavering. I was wavering because we faced a grim future of total Republican control of our federal government, combined with nearly total appeasement by that Republican establishment of an authoritarian-minded ‘President’. This ‘President’, while very likely to be found, with the tincture of time, to be illegitimate by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or by history, was still ascendant politically.
It seemed last year that Pelosi’s best days might have been in the past, with the Republicans’ decades-long smear campaign against her appearing to be an irredeemable success. I, like many, was finding it hard to imagine sticking with Pelosi out of sheer loyalty based on her past achievements, if that loyalty risked an unthinkable failure to take back the House.
I also had been a Bernie supporter, and was very concerned about the savaging of Bernie supporters on social media by some of my closest allies, and Pelosi seemed to be from that wing of the party (even though she largely kept her counsel on Bernie). Watching the Russian intelligence manipulation of a very small segment of Bernie supporters that many of us saw early on and were later proven right about, also had the counter-effect of causing many Bernie supporters like me to more easily support Hillary in the final, but it still created some additional suspicion of Pelosi for a time.
I also admired, and continue to admire, Congressman Seth Moulton, and I could see the logic in moving on, and I agreed with his implication that no politician “deserves” to be Speaker. It is a question of the best means to achieving political goals to benefit others, and is simply a matter of political utility. (Despite Moulton not being an ally of Pelosi, in the end he will likely not vote against her on the floor, when we sorely need a united front against our ‘President’.)
Yet by earlier this year, I was involved with another brilliant female candidate, Alexandra Chandler, and I felt personal loyalty to her campaign manager, Fred Rich LaRiccia. (Fred had managed my run for office two decades ago, and Fred managed Katherine Clark’s first campaign. I knew they all fiercely supported Pelosi.) I had long known Clark personally through Fred, and I had seen Clark not only excel in Congress, but also show extraordinary character in many personal matters, including quietly taking the time to attend the very small and very private memorial service of Fred’s partner.
I met Pelosi in 1986 when I was an intern in the House with Detroit Democrat John Conyers, Jr., and I myself felt loyalty toward her, because she had been the leader in the House on human rights issues dear to me both domestically, and internationally – particularly with regard to China.
So I kept my misgivings to myself.
In sum, had it not been for my cross-cutting ties, I was so concerned at that time about continuing with Pelosi, I might have jumped ship. That is my confession.
But here’s the real story. While some of us were engaged in all of this hand-wringing, Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Melrose was in action. Katherine Clark was working day and night on behalf of Nancy Pelosi as the head of Pelosi’s effort to recruit the best possible candidates in an unprecedented effort to mount viable campaigns in as many of the 435 House districts as possible.
Look at where we are today.
We are not out of the populist, Know-Nothing, proto-authoritarian woods, but it is now a brighter day. And we are seeing this new day in no small part due to the quiet, unsung (until recently) hard work of people like Nancy Pelosi and Katherine Clark to harness the energy of the decent left and center of this nation to flip the House.
And we did flip the House. We won. Big.
This puts Pelosi allies like my congressman Richard Neal as head of the Ways and Means Committee (the only committee in all of Congress with the legal authority to demand the ‘President’s’ tax returns), and Worcester’s Rep. Jim McGovern as head of the Rules Committee, with the power to advance or kill legislation.
There is something we can all do to reward all of this good work in the trenches by Katherine Clark. Katherine Clark is currently running to be the vice-chair of the Democratic House Caucus. I urge BMG’ers to call their member of congress to urge their support for Katherine Clark’s present candidacy for this position, the fifth most powerful political post in the House. She surely earned it this year.
I learned a lesson. Sometimes loyalty is not something that is pursued for its own sake. Sometimes the wisdom of the broader community, including our elders, is something to respect – not for the sake of adhering to conservative cultural shibboleths, but because sometimes our elders and those who work to advance their judgment, actually know what they are doing, and best advance progress.
Experience is never something to be glibly disregarded. Nancy Pelosi is not a creature of the past. Nancy Pelosi and her allies have responsibly and skillfully nurtured this blue wave. We are all very fortunate that Nancy Pelosi is standing between us and this malignant aberration in the White House. Today. Nancy Pelosi, Katherine Clark, Richard Neal, and Jim McGovern know what they are doing. Now, more than ever, we need everyone, including experienced people who know what they are doing, to be an effective check on this ‘President’.