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Not even close to "radical"
The real record of Nancy Pelosi

November 10, 2006 | Page 5

WITH THE Democrats winning a majority in the House, Nancy Pelosi is expected to become the next Speaker of the House. During the campaign, Republicans insisted this would usher in a new era of liberalism. But will it? Socialist Worker asked two California Green Party candidates about Pelosi--PETER CAMEJO, a three-time Green candidate for governor and Ralph Nader's vice presidential candidate in 2004, and TODD CHRETIEN, who ran against Dianne Feinstein for the Senate.

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IS NANCY Pelosi really the "radical" she's made out to be by Republicans?

Todd Chretien Nancy Pelosi has never been part of any left-wing movements. She got her start because her dad was the mayor of Baltimore and then a congressman.

She was first elected to the House in 1987 after long-reigning Democratic boss Phillip Burton died, leaving his seat to his wife, who subsequently died, leaving the seat up for a special election. Pelosi used her personal wealth to beat out a more liberal Democrat named Harry Britt, and has been elected with 70 percent margins of victory every two years since then.

What else to read

Read Lance Selfa's analysis of the rise and fall of the Republican era, "The Crisis of the GOP," in a recent issue of the International Socialist Review.

You can also download an ISO Web book by Lance Selfa, The Democratic Party and the Politics of Lesser Evilism, which is based on articles that appeared in the ISR, Socialist Worker and elsewhere.

For more on how the Democrats aided and abetted the rise of the Republicans, check out Left Out: How Liberals Helped Re-Elect George Bush by Joshua Frank. Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, edited by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn of CounterPunch magazine, makes the case against the Anybody-But-Bush mania that dominated the 2004 election.


In a sense, she represents San Francisco, but not the working class, Latino and Asian immigrant communities that make up its majority. Instead, she represents the yuppies who flooded the city during the 1990s tech boom. According to, Pelosi is the 9th richest member of the House of Representatives...birds of a feather.

You can only believe that Pelosi is a "radical" if you're the kind of person who believes that John McCain is an "independent."

Within the narrow confines of congressional politics, Pelosi probably ends up most times in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This means that she is generally against banning abortion (although she voted for a law giving a fetus rights under criminal law), opposes Bush's more outrageous tax giveaways to the rich (although she favors cutting social spending to "balance the budget"), voted against invading Iraq (although she supported the invasion of Afghanistan and has voted for every Pentagon budget Bush has requested since 2001) and recently voted against the 700-mile border fence (although she opposes granting legalization to undocumented workers).

One area where she leaves no room for doubt is her support for the Israeli war on the Palestinian people. This July, she joined 95 percent of her Democratic Party congressional colleagues in voting to support the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Since the run-up to the Iraq War, hundreds of thousands of people have marched right past her office on Market Street in San Francisco, and she has never even considered appearing at a protest.

Moreover, once she became the Democratic minority leader in the House in 2002, she has become the greatest defender of the right wing of the Democratic Party. For instance, when John Murtha first called for "redeploying" the troops in Iraq last fall, Pelosi attacked him and distanced the party from his remarks. Only after it became clear that Murtha was reflecting massive and growing antiwar sentiment did Pelosi change her tune. She even went on the Daily Show to call Murtha a "visionary."

And she has drawn a line in the sand against impeaching Bush if the Democrats win the majority in the House.

Last January, at a town hall meeting in San Francisco with 800 constituents, the generally liberal crowd booed antiwar protesters when we heckled Pelosi for refusing to vote to cut off funding for the Iraq war and voting for the USA PATRIOT Act (which she says we have to "mend, not end").

It was easy for her to ridicule us for calling for a "simplistic" withdrawal from Iraq. However, she proved that she'd even face down her strongest supporters.

When an elderly woman asked if she would impeach Bush, she said no. Then the whole crowd started to shout complaints. Pelosi shot back, "If you want to get rid of Bush, then I'll tell you what to do. Go out and work to get the Democrats elected in 2008." When many people in the crowd booed, Pelosi was visibly shaken, but steadfastly refused to even say the word "impeachment."

Peter Camejo Nancy Pelosi should be understood as someone who has supported George Bush for the last six years. She voted for a motion for unequivocal support for George Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq, and she led the Democratic Party to vote for that. So she is someone who has been committed to the policies that the U.S. government has followed.

There's nothing in particular that she's known for on any specific issue. But because she comes from San Francisco, they imbue to her certain qualities and positions, and to me, there's no evidence of their existence.

She led the Democrats in giving George Bush 35 standing ovations in the State of the Union address in 2005. Every single time he used the word Iraq, all the Democrats rose to give him a standing ovation.

One of the great myths being created right now is that the Democrats are antiwar, or that there's a layer of them who are antiwar. Where that myth became really clear was when Israel invaded Lebanon and destroyed its infrastructure--and of all the peace Democrats, not one spoke out for peace. They're all pro-war.

When the president of Venezuela got up at the United Nations and said what the entire world is feeling--that Bush represents an evil--and therefore he got a huge ovation, Nancy Pelosi referred to him as a "common thug."

What strikes me about that term is the word "common," which means plebian, poor, working class. It showed a class prejudice, and also possibly racism, because Chávez is not of European descent, he's a mestizo.

So she refers to him as a common thug, which, of course, he isn't--he is the elected president of a country, who was giving expression to what is the majority sentiment in the world.

Nancy Pelosi is simply a new face with a new party to carry out similar programs and similar policies as the Republicans have carried out, at least in the international arena, but also to a great extent in the national arena.

WHAT DO you say to progressives who agree that the Democratic leadership is conservative, but that by supporting the more liberal Democrats such as Pelosi, you can win the Democratic Party back to its true roots?

Peter Camejo First, the Democratic Party never was for the people--for the poor and the working class.

It was different decades ago, when there was a mass labor movement and mass struggles in the streets, because to get control that, the Democratic Party appeared as a party of concessions, which would fight for certain gains. This was all part of demobilizing those independent mass movements.

Also, we're not in the period where the United States was trying to consolidate control of the world after the Second World War, and it had to maintain peace at home with concessions in return for support for its international policies.

We live now in the era of globalization and international economic competition, where the goal is to lower the standard of living of working people, to eliminate high-paid industrial workers' jobs and to globalize productivity, using cheap labor throughout the Third World. In that period, the Democrats aren't needed by the corporate world to act like they're progressives or are pro-working class.

They're really playing the exact same role they always played--it's just that it appears more hostile toward working people.

WHAT SHOULD we expect from a House of Representatives where Pelosi is speaker?

Peter Camejo In this election, people are voting against the Republicans, not for the Democrats. All the polls say that, and people express that.

Therefore, I think what the Democrats are going to do is basically nothing. They're going to prepare to try to take the White House in 2008. And all their stances and maneuvers will be to try to prepare to win the public over for gaining control again, with all the benefits that come with their having control.

I don't expect any major legislation on anything. There's no indication of it. First of all, the Democrats are getting control because they're running a bunch of candidates who oppose the things that the Democratic Party rank and file support. They're not for the rights of women, they're not for the rights of gays, they're not for increasing taxes on the rich, they're not for making sure that unions are stronger and working people have opportunities.

I don't expect any major change. Their policy toward Iraq and Iran will be very similar. They'll put different words on it and claim that it is different, but the policy of empire-building to promote U.S. economic and corporate control of the world remains the same.

Todd Chretien I expect that some of Bush's more outlandish handouts to the rich will come to an end. There may also be an investigation into Republican corruption here and there. In terms of the judiciary, the Democrats will want judges who only want to turn the clock back to 1959, instead of 1214. And Congress will probably raise the federal minimum wage by $1 or $2 over the next four years, bringing it back up to 75 percent of the adjusted-for-inflation value it had in 1970.

But that's about it. I expect the Democrats will keep pouring money into the Pentagon. They will "prove" their national security credentials by threatening Iran and North Korea with sanctions. They will push Homeland Security to inspect more ports and continue the crackdown on Muslim and Arab people.

They won't overturn No Child Left Behind. They won't give us national health care. They won't raise taxes on the wealthy seriously. In fact, they won't do much of anything.

And the best part is that they are going to tell us that "not doing anything" is their "strategy." They'll say, "Well, we can't do anything with a narrow majority in Congress, so we have to focus on winning the presidency in 2008, and in order to do that, we can't do anything that will open the door to Republican criticism." They will bend over backward to "reach across the isle" and promote "bipartisanship."

The one thing they may accomplish, and accomplish quickly, is to unite with Bush to ram through a new "guest worker" (read indentured servant) bill on behalf of agribusiness and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But in general, they will try to do their best Republican-Lite act and hope that the Republican collapse continues until 2008.

The worst thing about Nancy Pelosi is that since she comes from San Francisco, many good left-wing people think that means something. And she will use this for all it's worth to silence criticism when she leads the Do-Nothing Democratic Congress to Do-Nothing to stop the wars in the Middle East, the attacks on our civil liberties and the racist campaign against immigrants.

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