The Pelosi Power Lunch

On Monday, I had the good fortune to attend Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s Annual Power Lunch. This year’s gathering was by far the biggest ever, attracting 3000 people to two grand ballrooms in The Hilton Chicago Hotel. But the huge crowd was understandable because this year’s guest of honor was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Two years ago, right after the 2016 Electoral College disaster, I was not alone in expressing frustration with our party’s leadership. Why wasn’t the Democratic Party’s messaging more focused? Why weren’t younger Democrats in Congress given more visibility? But last November’s congressional election successes, tactically influenced by Nancy Pelosi, have produced more young legislators, fresh energy and a momentum that continues to grow.  

So last Monday, personally seeing Speaker Pelosi present her opinions on the state of our democracy and her advice on how we might protect it from Trump’s disastrous reign, left me optimistic about 2020 and more convinced she is the person we need leading our U.S. House at this moment in our history.  

Here is a recap of at least some of what was said at the Lunch. 

The 2018 success:

Congresswoman Schakowsky introduced Speaker Pelosi by calling her “The most powerful woman in the USA.” She then characterized the Speaker’s role in the 2018 mid-term campaigns as: “The general who led the campaign to take back Congress.” She pointed out how Nancy urged all the congressional candidates to not focus on Donald Trump but instead talk about issues that touch people’s lives, like healthcare and climate change. — They did, and they won. 

Speaker Pelosi began her remarks by crediting the 2018 Illinois voters for electing/reelecting a number of exceptional people to the 116th Congress. Our state’s U.S.representatives now hold positions on a number of key House committees. And she had an explanation for why so many impressive new Democratic candidates have entered politics — “The times have found us.” She said that as the Trump presidency revealed its character after 2016, these Americans felt a heightened urgency to protect our democracy. — She then added that their fears and concerns were “not unfounded,” citing the example of our present Attorney General lying under oath to congress.  

The White House vs. Congress:

Congress does have methods to combat the Trump Administration’s lawless behavior. There are six House committees with subpoena power and each has its own “lane.” This description from Speaker Pelosi gave me the impression that each committee has the potential to question the behavior of Trump and his crooked crew from that committee’s specific perspective. – Trump operatives may have a great deal of scrutiny ahead of them. 

Referring to the Mueller Report and the stonewalling being done by the White House, Pelosi said Trump and Barr want to see House Democrats “gagged” by redactions, “That ain’t going to happen!” “They aren’t giving reasons why information is being hidden. They’re just giving excuses.” “What is in the report that Republicans don’t want the public to see?” 

Immigration:

Commenting on the turmoil swirling around immigration Ms. Pelosi stated, “Diversity is our strength, unity is our power.” She then quoted from the last speech President Ronald Reagan gave in office. He said he believed immigration “is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because unique among nations, we draw our people, our strength, from every country and every corner of the world … Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge; always leading the world to the next frontier.” — Ironically, this quote from a iconic Republican president received some of the loudest applause of the afternoon! 

Looking ahead to 2020: 

It was especially interesting to hear Speaker Pelosi’s take on how to win big next year. She said we must aim at “winning 2020 this year, in November.” Mobilization, Messaging, Money and Management are the keys to a successful campaign. If our incumbent Democratic candidates show they have built impressive campaign strength going into 2020, fewer Republicans will be willing to seriously challenge them. 

Then she quoted a startling statistic. Today, one in five American children lives in poverty. She went on to say, in 2020 the “three most important issues” that must have our attention are “our children, our children, our children.” At first I thought she was simply speaking as a mother and grandmother. Then I realized that by distilling our party’s driving priority down to “our children” Nancy Pelosi is presenting a potent strategy for 2020 campaigns. 

Climate change, decent healthcare, education opportunities, the elimination of poverty are all issues that are critically important for our nation’s future — in other words, for our children . These issues, already championed by Democrats, are continually ignored or even opposed by Republicans. (When you look at things that way, you could almost say that many Republican candidates are anti-children! At least, I could.) 

Speaker Pelosi reported that Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said this year he will be “the grim reaper” of all bills coming from the Democratic House. She then quoted Abraham Lincoln who said, “Public sentiment is everything.” She is certain that if we stand strong on key issues, the public will come our way and “Republicans in the senate will have a price to pay.” 

Then she added an intriguing thought: The terrible damage Trump is doing to our country right now could bring even more progressive new voices into Congress next year. “Donald Trump could someday be remembered as the president who swept in the most progressive period in America’s history.” — And wouldn’t that be something!

Nels Howard, NTD Member Since 1973