Sunday, November 12, 2006

Will Pelosi turn into Willie Brown?

Since Nancy Pelosi, the Member of Congress for my very own district, is poised to become the Speaker of the House, I've been reflecting on another San Francisco politician, one who ruled his legislative body with an iron fist for many years. I'm talking about Willie Brown, who was Speaker of the California Assembly for 14 years, and whose autocratic leadership style is widely credited with selling the idea of term limits to Californians. The question at hand is whether Speaker Pelosi will adopt a less obnoxious leadership style.

Read more... Willie Brown is a solid liberal, well to the left of Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, only in San Francisco could he be described as centrist, much less center-right, even if he did vigorously and consistently support the interests of large developers. But it wasn't his liberal credentials that put him on my bad side, it was his leadership style. In Willie Brown's Assembly, no bill moved forward unless he personally wanted it to. The conduits of political power in Sacramento all went through Willie's office. In that respect, Willie Brown was in the mold of the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, with their "majority of the majority" rules. Although I think that term limits are a terrible idea, I wasn't sad to see Willie taken out of the equation. In fact, I only just recently threw out my "Anybody but Willie Brown" window sign from his 1999 mayoral re-election campaign — his style at City Hall was just as autocratic and just as obnoxious. A friend of mine said, "Yeah, he's a crook, but he's our crook," meaning that Willie supported issues like LGBT equality; I said, "A crook is still a crook, and I won't vote for a crook." It's something like the logic by which so many Republicans turned out to vote for Democratic Congressional candidates last week.

My hope is that Speaker Pelosi will take something more of "the high road" in her approach to her new job. The "majority of the majority" requirement — no legislation will come to a vote on the House floor unless it is supported by a majority of the members of the majority party — must be scrapped and buried in the ash-heap of history. If a Republican proposal can get enough Democratic support to create a majority of the House, it should be brought to a vote — just as Bill Clinton brought NAFTA through the Democratic-majority Senate over the objections of many Dems. The "majority of the majority" rule is a cornerstone of the elevation of partisan interests over the good of the nation, and America deserves better.

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