NYT on Pelosi, the Ginger Rogers of the Democrats, vs. ‘Republican-stoked Misogyny’

November 5th, 2018 2:43 PM

With her position in the Democratic Party up for grabs as the elections loom, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was the recipient of a loving profile by New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, “Demonized or Celebrated, Pelosi Stands Firm and Refuses to Agonize.” The text box: “A lawmaker eagerly awaits more female legislators to mentor.” (Diversity – of the Democratic sort, anyway – is one of the paper’s dominant themes this campaign cycle.)

This is what it’s like being Nancy Pelosi:

Republicans are running ads against you again, morphing your face into a monster mask of a big-spending, amnesty-loving San Francisco liberal. Democratic candidates are running from your leadership, declaring it time for a new generation in Washington even as they welcome endorsements from Joe Biden, who’s been around nearly two decades longer.

Standard political criticism of Pelosi takes on the aura of unfair insults in Zernike’s sympathetic portrayal.

Now comes a young Harvard man, a graduate student, turning your exhortation on the power of public sentiment back on you -- you have just quoted Abraham Lincoln -- to ask about the Democrats “running on a platform of not supporting you.”

“How does one deal with this negative public sentiment, and reorganizing your coalition and bringing them back under your leadership and support for you?” he says in front of the standing-room crowd at the John F. Kennedy School of Government here.

Ms. Pelosi, the only woman to ever be speaker of the House, replies that she has been opposed in previous bids for leadership; it’s the vitality of the Democratic Party; she thrives on it. The audience applauds, but she pushes on: “I say this especially to women, because they think women are going to run away from a fight, but you can’t do that.”


In South Florida two days later, Nancy Pelosi is still not running away.

In Zernike’s sympathetic hands, criticisms become unfair “caricatures.”

Ms. Pelosi, 78, is the highest-ranking woman in American politics and American political history. And as the only woman at the table for so long, she has become the proxy for all the complicated feelings around women in power.

The caricatures come easily. One ad -- Republicans have run more than 61,000 featuring her in the last six weeks, more than either party has run about President Trump -- depicts a California congressman walking in a cheap version of Ms. Pelosi’s signature stilettos, more streetwalker than former speaker. Has anyone ever attempted to tar a candidate with Chuck Schumer’s reading glasses or Mitch McConnell’s wingtips?

Zernike kept raining plaudits upon Pelosi’s head, while portraying her Republican opponents as troglodytes.

She has spent months crisscrossing the country campaigning for this new generation, excited for what she calls a “watershed year” for women in the House; she came to Congress five years before the Year of the Woman in 1992, after raising her five children, and there were only 23 female House members. She moves from New York to Boston to Florida in a day with no evidence of weariness, raising money, rallying volunteers in districts the Democrats are hoping to flip, whispering to candidates, promoting the health care law -- all, to paraphrase the old line about Ginger Rogers, in three-inch heels.

And the surging numbers of women turning out in politics this year are speaking up for her, defending her against what they see as Republican-stoked misogyny and ageism.


So this is also what it’s like being Nancy Pelosi:

Christina Hartman, a former congressional candidate who was moderating a panel with Ms. Pelosi at the Philadelphia office of Emerge, which trains women to run for office, told the crowd how she built her “Nancy Pelosi wardrobe” as campaign armor, then introduces “our fighter, our champion of political candidates, our style icon and political fairy godmother, Nancy Pelosi.”

Mobbed by attendees afterward, Ms. Pelosi leaned in as Vern Mack, a local committeewoman, told about all the women like her in her neighborhood who are raising their grandchildren because their sons were killed by gun violence. “I am in awe of her,” Ms. Mack said after.

In 2015 the paper embarrassed itself trying to cover for Pelosi’s pro-abortion Catholicism under the headline "In Pelosi, Strong Catholic Faith and Abortion Rights Coexist."