For a long time, Nancy Pelosi has been seen as the uncontested backbone and leader of the Democratic Party. As the first female Speaker of the House and a congressperson with over 30 years under her belt, her experience, reputation, and willingness to work with the other side has allowed her to prioritize what she has always seen as her primary responsibility: getting the Democrats power.
Pelosi has a long list of accomplishments, such as the passing of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and can attribute many of these to her ability to strike a balance and find a middle ground with the Republican Party. While many of her Congressional motions over the years have been blocked by the opposition - and she outwardly condemns the Republican president - the first female Speaker continues to preserve her power among the Democrats and keep the peace of the House.
That is, however, until this past November, when some new firsts - four to be exact - came into the House with an agenda to shake things up and transform the Party into one that reflected what many people now view as a more diverse and evolving America.
And unlike her usual self, Nancy Pelosi was not prepared - specifically, for the change they would demand of a Democratic Party she believed was in no way in need of a revival.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as “AOC,” of New York’s 14th District, is the youngest female ever elected to Congress; Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts’s Seventh District is the first Black congresswoman from her state; Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota’s Fifth District is the first Somali-American legislator in the United States; and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan’s 13th District is the first Palestinian-American female to be elected into the House (Omar and Tlaib also serve as the first two Muslim women in Congress).
These four congresswomen, known colloquially as “the Squad,” have faced an insurmountable challenge since they were sworn in during January of this year, and that’s been, not only protecting themselves against the attacks of the opposition (most heinously in the form of death threats or xenophobic chants), but doing so without the support of their own party members - especially Pelosi.
Recently, Speaker Pelosi has come under fire for allegedly targeting and belittling the congresswomen stating they lack a following in the Democratic Party and that, within the House, “they’re [just] four people and that’s how many votes they got.” She also stated in an interview this month that their views on many “left-leaning” issues are not fully representative of the Party’s beliefs, including climate change and healthcare.
But, “the Squad’s” stances on social issues are nothing new for the Democratic Party. In fact, Pelosi, who was once known as “the San Francisco Liberal,” was a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act during her first term as Speaker under the Obama Administration. As a result of her work to pass the bill in Congress, she ended up burning many bridges across party lines and lost her position - and the House - the following election.
One of the only differences between Pelosi and “the Squad” when it comes to these stances is that it’s now four women of color taking them and it’s also four women of color who are taking them on behalf of the millions of Americans they represent:
In the United States, there are almost 3.5 million Muslims, about 5.1 million Hispanic people of Puerto Rican descent, over 23.5 million Black women, and around 85,000 people of Palestinian descent; “the Squad” has allowed for a greater bridge of communication between the government and these important, yet often overlooked, communities of Americans.
Now comes the question: Who does Pelosi represent?
Well, Pelosi technically represents the 12th District of California, but, truthfully, she has begun to represent an older, more moderate Democratic Party; one where compromise is more important than solutions, compliance is the norm, and votes have, unfortunately, become more valuable than those casting them.
Headlines all week have been saying that Donald Trump’s racist comments attacking “the Squad” are what will finally unite the Democrats - which is a whole separate issue in and of itself.
And, yes, maybe it could be a start.
But there is no way that the Democratic Party will ever become a unified front if Pelosi and the rest of her colleagues don’t either work together or step aside to make room for change in the form of four iron-willed, quick-witted, and fresh-faced congresswomen who represent a new, and more promising, future for America.
The last time change was on the horizon, Pelosi let go of her reservations and did what she knew was right, even if that meant giving up one of the most powerful seats in the government.
As Ocasio-Cortez recently told a crowd of young college and high school students at a Democratic fellowship summit, “It has taken us 240 years to get this unique composite in Congress and we will not go back. We will go forward.”
So, Madam Speaker, will you be helping them?