Don't screw it up, Dems, vote Pelosi speaker

On Wednesday, House Democrats voted to nominate Nancy Pelosi of California to the speaker position, 203 to 32. She’ll need 218 total votes in January, when Congress reconvenes, to take control.

It’s going to be an uphill battle to win over Republicans. The Democrats who voted against her would do well to reconsider.

Republicans have spent millions spreading falsehoods and concocting conspiracy theories to demonize Ms. Pelosi, the way they demonized Hillary Clinton — a form of character assassination gently termed a “false narrative”. They were quite successful with Ms. Clinton. They are still working on Ms. Pelosi. Their character assassination has convinced a broad swath of the public that she is public enemy No. 1.

Since 2014, Republicans have owned the national government. House Republicans willingly relinquished their constitutional role as a co-equal branch of government to shill for their president. The deal went sour. Who knew Donald Trump was so off kilter he wouldn’t honor veterans on Veterans Day or give thanks on Thanksgiving? They watched mutely while he crushed long established institutional norms, threatened to jail opponents, shattered global alliances and assailed the reputations of patriotic Americans who had served their country long before he skipped military service with bone spurs.

Such Republican silence enabled a nefarious spree:

  • Snatching children from their mothers;
  • Cozying up to authoritarian regimes;
  • Sending American troops to ward off a fabricated “invasion” led by families carrying backpacks;
  • Putting Saudi interests ahead of justice for a massacred journalist living in Virginia;
  • Humiliating the U.S. attorney general and replacing him with a lackey who may yet shield the president from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Republicans simply abdicated their constitutional responsibility to check or scrutinize the president’s dangerous behavior.

Much of the public did not know what to make of the chaos. Mr. Trump’s White House is a mess. His family? Under scrutiny. His cabinet? Corrupt. His legislative accomplishments? Puny. His country? Embarrassed, edgy and divided.

Finally, though, the public has caught on. They gathered a new posse, they brought in a new sheriff: They gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives.

So what’s the first thing a small group of my fellow Democrats did? Before organizing to fight the bad guys, they formed a firing squad who actually considering dumping Ms. Pelosi and dislodging the leadership team who just delivered the most impressive mid-term victory in history. They want to replace Ms. Pelosi, whom many regard as one of the most effective speakers in modern times; a brilliant legislative tactician; and , by the way, the party’s best fund raiser.

Voters this month elected Democrats to the House of Representatives to bring some stability and sanity to our political process. They gave Democrats a House majority substantial enough to check the Republican-controlled Senate and White House. Most assumed Ms. Pelosi would be speaker. They voted for change — from Republican control to Democratic control of the House, not change in the House leadership.

Don’t buy in to the manufactured narrative that Ms. Pelosi is a West Coast liberal who’s out of touch and too divisive. Ms. Pelosi may live in San Francisco, but she has the heart and soul of her Baltimore political family, which championed working people and the American dream.

A vote for Ms. Pelosi is about who is tough enough to save the country from Donald Trump, a bully capable of tearing America and the world apart for his own survival and financial self-interest. It’s also about electing a speaker who has the proven ability to hold together the party’s diverse members to create a pragmatic and progressive Democratic agenda for the next Democratic presidential candidate.

As for those who are worried about their campaign pledge to not vote for Ms. Pelosi, let me offer some advice:

Own it. Tell your constituents you can’t vote for an empty chair (as no one is challenging Ms. Pelosi anyway) and that you didn’t come to Washington to make Kevin McCarthy speaker. But most candidly, tell them that every passing day is revealing something more dangerous about the president and that you must vote for the person strong enough and knowledgeable enough to keep him in check. Now is not the time for on-the-job training. There is a reason that #LeaderNotALearner was trending on Twitter discussions of the speakership.

While speaker, Ms. Pelosi was an almost unparalleled success. In the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, she passed through the House every item on his agenda: health care, measures to fight climate change, regulatory reform and pay equity. Former California Representative George Miller, a Pelosi ally, said that as he watched her work the floor toward a legislative victory, he could almost hear the theme music from “Jaws” in his head. Ms. Pelosi is the kind of leader the House and the country need now. Do the right thing and elect Ms. Pelosi speaker.

Don’t screw it up.

Theodore G. Venetoulis, a businessman and former Baltimore County executive, is author of "The House Shall Choose," a book about the two times Congress has selected the president. His email is ted.venetoulis@gmail.com.

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