Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
Though the Democrats suffered massive losses—at least 11 seats—in the House during the midterm elections, San Francisco Representative Nancy Pelosi isn’t going anywhere. She wants to stay on as minority leader. And she thinks questions of whether she would leave are sexist.
Whoa. Is she right?
At a press conference yesterday, Pelosi responded to a reporter’s question about whether the 74 year-old would be stepping aside with what you politely call a brush-back pitch, saying that men in similar positions didn’t face such concerns.
“What I said to the most recent person who asked 'Well you’ve lost now three times. Why don’t you step aside?' [was] "what was the day that any of you said to Mitch McConnell, when they lost the Senate three times in a row, lost making progress in taking back the Senate three times in a row, ‘Aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch? Shouldn’t you step aside?’ Have you ever asked him that question?” (McConnell is currently 72.) Pelosi went on to complain that she’d never been on the cover of Time magazine, although Republican Speaker John Boehner had been. “Isn’t there a pattern here?” Pelosi asked. “As a woman, it’s like, is there a message here? Is there something that we’re missing?”
As Mother Jones points out, this isn't the first time that Pelosi’s faced these kinds of questions in the wake of Democratic losses—nor the first time she’s pushed back against them strongly. In 2012, Luke Russert asked a similar question that Pelosi branded “offensive.” Pelosi is the spring chicken of California’s relatively senior political class, which includes Governor Jerry Brown (76), Senator Barbara Boxer (74), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (81).
But it's possible that Pelosi did, in fact, overplay her hand in brushing off the retirement question. As the Chronicle notes, she is currently the longest-serving party leader in the House since Sam Rayburn died—in 1961. Party leaders have often stepped down after major electoral defeats, including Republican Newt Gingrich’s resignation as Speaker of the House in 1998. The Republicans lost just five seats in that election. Since Pelosi became House Minority Leader in 2003, Democrats have moved from 209 seats in the House to a high of 258 during the first years of the Obama administration, to the party's current level of 201 seats.
But there’s another number that says more about her staying power: 428.8 million. That’s the number of dollars that Pelosi has fundraised for Democrats since she entered the House leadership. As in, lots of money. She currently faces no likely challengers for her post from Democrats. So whether or not the question is sexist, it has a pretty clear answer. Pelosi is not likely to go anywhere soon.