A schoolmarm’s lot, like that of a policeman’s, is not a happy one, particularly if her lot is a roomful of noisy children whose ignorance is boundless and who have only a small ambition to do anything about it. Shed a bipartisan tear for Nancy Pelosi.
She presides over not only the House of Representatives, which is difficult enough, but over her own Democratic caucus, more than a second job. Presiding over the Senate, where egos are bigger but there’s not so many of them, has been likened to herding cats. Others have compared a congressional caucus, Republican or Democratic, to a Baptist congregational business meeting, where everyone has an equal vote and wants to cast it twice (or three times). Such a wealth of argument and debate can be a headache for a parson or a politician, but it comes with the job.
It’s an Excedrin Headache No. 9 in politics, and maybe worse among Democrats. “I’m not a member of an organized political party,” Will Rogers, the famous philosopher of the news (when the news wasn’t always fake) once observed. “I’m a Democrat.” He would recognize the 110th Congress.
Before the midterm congressional elections Mrs. Pelosi could have imagined that all she had to worry about in her return to power were the big mouths of what passes for the party’s big mules, members with the strength of experience to pull their weight as the party took over the House. Mules usually know where they’re supposed to go and, though famously contrary, they usually go where the muleskinner tells them to go. Nancy will need a length of a two-by-four plank to show them, as Sam Rayburn and Jim Wright demonstrated before her.
She might, for example, have imagined that her migraine would be Rep. Maxine Waters, whose big mouth vowing all manner of death and genuine destruction for Republicans once the Democrats would be running things again was a genuine concern of any Democrat who understands how things actually work in Washington.
Mrs. Waters has sobered up quickly. Now that she’s the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, she’s no longer a red-hot stalker of the president and enemy of everybody on Wall Street, always ready to say something outrageous. Now she all but concedes that all her blather was fake news, and nobody could take the joke.
“These people in the media who only want to talk about Trump and want to somehow fashion an argument that I’m going to spend all my time on Trump are wrong,” she told Bloomberg News the other day. “This is a big committee, with complicated issues that we’ve been working on.” Sticking it to the president and the banks sounded good, and so did the cheers and applause. She forgot that a lot of young Democrats in the Class of ’18 have not yet learned to take what they see and hear with a helping of salt.
“There’s two sides to Maxine,” says Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, a Republican member of her committee. “We’ll see which side shows up.”
Her biggest headache will be the clutch of new Congresspersons hovering around Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose greatest distinction so far is that she might know less about everything than any other millennial upstart. She thinks the average American on whom the socialist revolution depends has been waiting for someone to take away his car and give him a scooter, and raise taxes to a point just south of a hundred percent, leaving him without enough left to charge the battery on his scooter.
She arrived touting her “Green New Deal” (she’s not sure what the original New Deal was but it sounds groovy), which would dispense Medicare for all, raise taxes to 70 percent of income and provide those scooters for everybody. Republicans scoff that such would transform the United States into a version of Venezuela. Miss Ocasio-Cortez, eager to correct them, says no, it would only transform the U.S.A. into a version of Sweden.
Nancy Pelosi can’t blame her kids for not knowing anything. The media has been celebrating their youth, their diversity and their ignorance since the recent election pushed them into positions of power. Nor can she credibly deny paternity, now that paternity is available to all 29 sexes. When she — and life in Washington — teaches them the facts of life the fog of disappointment will turn their enthusiasm into a thick soup of frustration. These are the progeny of the ’60s, and they can blame that earlier generation that knew everything. How Nancy will keep order in her schoolroom will be entertaining for the rest of us. For Nancy, not so much.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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