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Why Nancy Pelosi running for re-election is good for the Democratic Party

The House speaker announced she’s running for her 19th term in Congress this fall. Here’s what she needs to do to make it worthwhile, for herself and her party. 


Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that she plans to run for re-election to the House in this year’s midterms. If she wins, the California Democrat would begin her 19th term in Congress next January. 

“While we’ve made progress, much more needs to be done to improve people’s lives,” Pelosi said in a video announcement posted on Twitter. “Our democracy is at risk because of assaults on the truth, the assault on the U.S. Capitol, and the state-by-state assault on voting rights.”

In this year’s “crucial” elections, Pelosi said, “nothing less is at stake than our democracy. But as we say: We don’t agonize, we organize.” 

Whether Pelosi’s re-election bid helps or harms Democrats will depend on whether she'll seek to retain her speakership.

As I see it, Pelosi had two clear choices to make on re-election — and neither would serve Democrats well in the future. Meeting those two choices somewhere in the middle, which she can still do, is the best remaining option, and it's one with a lot of potential. 

Like many of her Democratic colleagues, Pelosi could have announced her retirement ahead of this year’s midterms, which many people are writing off as a guaranteed disaster for her party (largely due to Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression). But the House speaker hitting the eject button on herself ahead of a tough election cycle would only feed into the belief that Democrats are preparing to get shellacked in November. That’d be a questionable choice for someone like Pelosi, who seems genuinely invested in Democrats’ future legislative hopes. (However, she is 81, and the choice would have been understandable). 

Conversely, Pelosi’s re-election plans could be viewed by some as the House speaker going full Leo DeCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” defiantly refusing to leave her position out of sheer hunger for power. Democrats should hope that’s not the case.

Ultimately, whether Pelosi’s re-election bid helps or harms Democrats will depend on whether she'll seek to retain the speakership. And that’s where she can find her middle ground: remaining in Congress but wielding her power to usher in and uplift new, progressive leadership to take over — not down the line, but literally as soon as possible.

In 2018, Pelosi struck a deal with some House progressives who agreed to vote for her as speaker if she agreed to term limits for the speakership. The policy, which was never formalized, would block her from serving a fifth term. At the time of the vote, Pelosi said she’d abide by the policy “whether it passes or not.”

Back then, Pelosi said she sees herself as a “bridge to the next generation of leaders.” She can be that — in emphatic fashion — by remaining in Congress but willingly passing the baton, maybe even the gavel, to rising progressives in her party.

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