The Only Credible Challenger to Nancy Pelosi's Speakership Just Endorsed Nancy Pelosi

The Only Credible Challenger to Nancy Pelosi's Speakership Just Endorsed Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Karen Bass of California tweeted this morning:

So what’s the significance of this, you say? Plenty.

Karen Bass, an African American member of the House from California, has been floated as a potential challenger to Nancy Pelosi’s path to the Speakership after Democrats appeared to have flipped nearly 40 seats in the House in the biggest gains for the party since Watergate. Seth Moulton, one of the five white guys most vocal to stop Pelosi’s assent, floated three names just yesterday - all of women of color - as potential challengers to Pelosi, in a desperate attempt to inoculate the challenge to Pelosi spearheaded by five white guys from charges of sexism: Linda Sanchez (CA), Karen Bass (CA) and Marcia Fudge (OH).

The inclusion of Linda Sanchez on that list should have been the first clue that the people trying to rattle the most effective Speaker of the House in generations are pathetic power players. Linda Sanchez ended her pursuit of leadership in the Democratic caucus six days ago - after her husband was indicted on federal criminal charges in Connecticut. That Moulton was floating her name yesterday is indication that this group is not just behind the ballgame, they don’t even read the news.

Rep. Marcia Fudge has been out on the speaking circuits trying to accuse Pelosi of not paying attention to issues of race, but it will prove to be difficult as (a) Fudge has not yet declared her candidacy for speaker, and (b) black women in the House largely line up behind Pelosi, including the iconic Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters.

That leaves Karen Bass. In my judgment, Bass would have been the only credible challenger to Pelosi had she chosen to run. Not because of her gender or her race but because she was the only potential challenger who has had a job like this before. Karen Bass served as the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly from 2008 to 2010, leading the legislature of the largest and most diverse state in the union.

As Speaker of the Assembly, Bass actually had to deal with a Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, before Democrats had reached the two-thirds majorities required to not just overturn a veto but in the state of California, to raise revenue and at the time, to even pass a budget. Although Bass corralled a much smaller Democratic caucus than Pelosi, her members represented two-thirds as many people each as a member of Congress (California has 53 US House districts and 80 Assembly districts) and because of the aforementioned much more stringent supermajority requirements, California Assembly Speakers have had to play tacticians in a field tilted toward the tyranny of a minority - moreso during Bass’ tenure than now.

So you see, Karen Bass would not simply have fit the optics of anti-Pelosi Democrats, she would have brought actual bona-fides of Speakership dealing with challenges of a diverse population, diverse caucus, and political headwinds.

But perhaps because Karen Bass has been speaker, she knows that the job of a Speaker is not be an ideological dogmatist but a shrude tactician who can build consensus in a diverse caucus that will often need to be held together to battle the opposing forces. The job of a Speaker is not simply to give speeches and host protest rallies but to know the legislative game like the back of their hand.

That Karen Bass has been the Speaker of the California Assembly is likely a significant reason she is endorsing Nancy Pelosi.



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