Books

'Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics'

Frank J. Smist, Jr.
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

The 52nd speaker of the House didn't just shatter the glass ceiling that had barred women from the highest governmental offices, she destroyed it.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Price: $29.95
Author: Ronald M. Peters Jr., Cindy Simon Rosenthal
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2010-05
Amazon

After the U.S. presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, President George W. Bush and his chief political strategist, Karl Rove, hoped to maintain a permanent Republican majority at the national level of our government. But after a failed attempt to reform Social Security, a disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina and a continuing stalemate in Iraq, the Democrats surged back into power.

In the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and in 2008 Democrat Barack Obama became the first African-American to become U.S. president. Any dreams of a permanent Republican majority were shattered.

On 4 January 2007, Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected the 52nd speaker of the House. As speaker, she follows the vice president in the order of presidential succession; as such, she has attained the highest position in the U.S. government that any woman has ever held. Pelosi didn't just shatter the glass ceiling that had barred women from the highest governmental offices, she destroyed it.

But just who is Nancy Pelosi? How did she rise to power? How has she exercised the powers of speaker?

A new book by Ron Peters and Cindy Rosenthal, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics, is now the definitive work on the speaker and answers these questions.

Peters and Rosenthal are political scientists and experts on Congress at the University of Oklahoma. They bring to their book the methodological tools of the political scientist and the incisive research and writing skills of the most gifted journalist.

Pelosi was born and raised in Baltimore, and politics were in her blood from her birth. Pelosi's father, Thomas D'Alesandro, was a congressman from Maryland and later mayor of Baltimore. Nancy's mother, Annunciata D'Alesandro, was in charge of her husband's constituent services. Nancy ran political errands and learned grassroots Italian-Catholic politics at a very young age.

In 1963, Nancy D'Alesandro married Paul Pelosi, and they settled in San Francisco. Nancy Pelosi stayed home and raised five children, but politics remained her passion. She became an active and very successful party organizer and fundraiser.

In 1984, she organized the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. There, she became close friends with New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Two years later, U.S. Sen. George Mitchell tapped her to be finance chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, and she helped Senate Democrats regain control of their chamber in the 1986 elections.

In 1987, Pelosi ran for Congress with the endorsement of dying San Francisco congresswoman Sala Burton and won election in one of the most liberal congressional districts in the country. Once in the House, Pelosi was unstoppable.

Peters and Rosenthal show how Pelosi used fundraising, organization, candidate recruitment and her gender to climb the ranks of House leadership. She was not content to settle for traditional female House positions. She wanted and worked to become speaker.

The authors interviewed those who surrounded and now surround Nancy Pelosi, and they spent considerable time with the speaker herself. Among their insights: For Pelosi, the key number is 218 — the number of votes required to pass legislation in the House. An ideological liberal, Pelosi will tack to the right, reach out to more moderate Democrats and compromise if that is required to pass a bill. Legislative victory is more important to Pelosi than ideological purity.

Peters and Rosenthal maintain that Pelosi embodies what they call a "New American Politics "composed of excessive partisanship, extensive fundraising, organizing district-by-district, using new technology such as the Internet, and fostering diversity for minorities and women.

It is now clear that Obama's health care legislation would not have been enacted had it not been for Nancy Pelosi's efforts.

The authors show that Pelosi is a true ideological liberal who fervently believes government is the source of public good. Health care is just one item on her agenda; she also wants government to reform social welfare programs, address energy independence and climate change, reform immigration, and rebuild the U.S. economy.

To accomplish these goals, Pelosi has adopted new tools of communication. She was the first member of Congress to start an individual YouTube account, and she also operates on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

By becoming speaker, Pelosi made American history. She is a significant role model for women who aspire to political leadership roles.

But with the 2010 elections on the horizon, Pelosi has become the focus of Republican attacks, and her long-term impact on American history and American politics remains to be seen.

Frank J. Smist, Jr. is emeritus professor of political science at Rockhurst University.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.