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Is Nancy Pelosi the most powerful woman in American history?
March 27, 2010 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Is Nancy Pelosi the most powerful woman in American history?
posted by modernnomad (106 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't think of a counterexample. Unless you count Dear Abby.
posted by msalt at 9:43 AM on March 27, 2010


No.

Not even close.
posted by stringbean at 9:49 AM on March 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can't think of a counterexample.

Sandra Day O'Connor.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:49 AM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Stringbean -- interesting counterexamples... but would you classify them more as "influential" or "important" or "powerful"? Rosa Parks was undoubtedly an influential and important figure in US history, but was she really "powerful"?
posted by modernnomad at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2010 [15 favorites]


Oprah
posted by graventy at 9:56 AM on March 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


Well it's possibly just because of her father and brother you know, not her.

DAVID BROOKS: I'm trying to think of alternatives.

Some people say Edith Wilson was very powerful when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke.

JIM LEHRER: Woodrow Wilson.

DAVID BROOKS: But, certainly, this is a great accomplishment. And sort of it's an interesting picture of what it takes to succeed in a job like this.

She is not a great speaker -- I mean a spokesperson, a communicator. I personally don't think she's great on policy. But she has the skills to know how to control this body, which is a fractious body, even when you have a majority. And, so, those skills are maybe in her blood from her father and her brother, but also skills that she really possesses. And there's no denying she is a very effective legislator.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:56 AM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


stringbean: "Not even close."

I was going to say Harriet Beecher Stowe as well. But Carrie Nation and Margaret Sanger are also way ahead of Pelosi.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:57 AM on March 27, 2010


No.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:57 AM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


David Brooks is just ...just an awful thing.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on March 27, 2010 [16 favorites]


modernnomad: "... would you classify them more as "influential" or "important" or "powerful"?"

Influence is power exercised indirectly, is it not?
posted by Joe Beese at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"extreme liberal"

Man fuck you Guardian. You don't know what extreme liberal is.
posted by graventy at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2010 [16 favorites]


David Brooks is just ...just an awful thing.

And, so, that awfulness is maybe in his blood from his mother and sister, though, so, you see.

Snark aside, it's weird that he thinks something could be in your blood from something your sibling has. That's not how blood works.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Carrie Nation and Margaret Sanger are also way ahead of Pelosi.

"Nation applauded the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 because she believed that he secretly drank alcohol and that drinkers always got what they deserved."

A great American and a great role model. We need more people taking the law into their own hands and destroying other people's property after hearing the voice of god.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:04 AM on March 27, 2010 [17 favorites]


But having influence and being influential are different things. Many artists, for example, are massively influential without ever having had any influence in their lifetimes.
posted by oddman at 10:04 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


She certainly seems to be one of the most effective Speakers of the House in a long while. I was pretty f-ing impressed with the way that she brought the health-care bill back from the dead. She's a hell of an eleven dimensional chess player.
posted by octothorpe at 10:06 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


To play Devil's advocate, her father and brother both held office (mayor), while, apparently, none of her female immediate relatives did, and it would thus be more of a stretch to speculate on what their influence on her political skills may have been.
posted by Anything at 10:11 AM on March 27, 2010


A great American and a great role model. We need more people taking the law into their own hands and destroying other people's property after hearing the voice of god.

"Powerful" has nothing to do with whether you like what she did with her power. For instance, if you asked me who was the most powerful man in German history, I'd say Hitler.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:13 AM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


I happened to catch Brooks right as he said that, and when he mentioned father, brother I winced in disbelief but you could see it in his face that he knew he screwed up and he quickly made it a point to say but also skills that she really possesses.

It would be easy to put him through the pc meat grinder for this, and he could be more careful about phrasing, but I don't think he's a misogynist.
posted by victors at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2010


If you define "power" in the simplest sense as "political influence" then I would say yes, certainly she is-- though O'Connor was, and Ginsburg, and Sotomayor certainly are contenders in terms of long-term ability to affect the direction of the country.

Sanger, Carrie Nation, and others were all important cultural influences, and during their heydays had some measure of ability to sway opinion and/or policy (though more often than not, they just inflamed their opponents) but in terms of what Pelosi can currently do, it was peanuts.

Someday, we'll have enough women in power and as President that this whole discussion will be silly, and Pelosi's achievements in pushing through healthcare will be more relevant than her gender.

And by then David Brooks will inhabit his rightful place in the footnotes of history.
posted by emjaybee at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


It would be easy to put him through the pc meat grinder for this

So lets not. There are so many other things we can put him through the meat ginger for.
posted by The Whelk at 10:18 AM on March 27, 2010


Eleanor Roosevelt was the instigator of many of the important legal gains for civil rights between 1932 and 1945, including the Fair Employment Practices Committee and the desegregation of the armed forces.

I realize that she wasn't de jure calling the shots, but those are far more important than some anemic legislation and she was the person who convinced the president to implement them.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:18 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like say, being a Muppet version of Dr. Pangloss busily fellating the upper class?
posted by The Whelk at 10:18 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, that was offensive to Muppets.
posted by The Whelk at 10:19 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Depends on your definition of power. Pelosi's not the richest, and you can even argue she's not politically powerful because she relies on the votes of other congresspeople. Rather, she's a face that people can put on the current surge in Democratic power. That's why the Tea Parties hate her so much.

Still, the fact that she's enacted good legislation will ensure her a good place in the history books. She has a powerful legacy, although you can't really do much with a legacy aside from feel good about yourself.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:25 AM on March 27, 2010


it's weird that he thinks something could be in your blood from something your sibling has. That's not how blood works.

There's an obvious counterexample. My brother has whiskey.
posted by 7segment at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Currently, Mary Schroeder, Pamela Ann Rymer, Susan Graber, Mary Margaret McKeown, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Marsha L. Berzon, Johnnie B. Rawlinson, "Connie" Callahan, Sandra Segal Ikuta, Betty Binns Fletcher, Dorothy Wright Nelson and Cynthia Holcomb Hall are the most powerful women in (U.S.) American History.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2010


Snark aside, it's weird that he thinks something could be in your blood from something your sibling has. That's not how blood works.

That's how blood works in the Brooks family. Only the strong survive.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2010


Maybe he's just the last surviving Lamarckian.
posted by The Whelk at 10:29 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Influence is power exercised indirectly, is it not?

Not if you use it to describe influence over time, in which case Rosa Parks may have been the single most influential woman in American history. In that sense it's hard to say what Pelosi's influence will have been, although we can expect it to be rather significant.

She certainly seems to be one of the most effective Speakers of the House in a long while. I was pretty f-ing impressed with the way that she brought the health-care bill back from the dead.

Agreed -- her process-fu in that was pretty damned impressive (especially considering how hampered Reid was by the mere threat of process). On the other hand, this was one bill. Tip O'Neill was Speaker for a decade, most of it in opposition, and Sam Rayburn will be a tough record to break (seventeen years in three tenures). Definitely an improvement over the feckless Wright, but Tom Foley was pretty good for a mixed tenure of opposition and incumbency against the White House. Gingrich, on the other hand, was definitely a savvy and effective Speaker for his side, while Hastert was not really a leader as much as a front (if you ask me).

I think she's got a way to go before going down in history as one of the great Speakers. But I think she does fit the bill of most powerful woman, measured since 2007, even without this legislation.

Who could beat her? A woman Senate Majority Leader would technically, as the Senate is the upper house, but I'm not really sure it's a more powerful position. The House is where a lot of the action is at. A woman Chief Justice, certainly, as the leader of the Nine is clearly more powerful than one of two leading the legislature. A vice president, certainly. I think Hillary is obviously the most powerful woman in the Executive Branch but then she's not even the first female Secretary of State and hasn't put her stamp on policy the way Albright did.

So, I think it's a fair cop.
posted by dhartung at 10:31 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everyone knows that The Fabulous Moolah was the most powerful woman in American history.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:38 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


that's not how blood works

doubters aside, yea, it kind of is how it works.
posted by victors at 10:45 AM on March 27, 2010


I heard Nancy Pelosi once shot a man... for snoring too loud!
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 10:45 AM on March 27, 2010


She has a powerful legacy, although you can't really do much with a legacy aside from feel good about yourself.

I'm not so sure. I think she has parts of her legacy that she can carry around with her.

Yes, this is an excuse to post a cute kid picture.
posted by uri at 10:45 AM on March 27, 2010


graventy: Man fuck you Guardian. You don't know what extreme liberal is.

I'll give you a pass if this is a US/British difference, but the use of quotation marks around that term in the subhead hints at what is made amply clear in the article itself — that this is a description of how Pelosi's foes characterize her. And it's surely entirely accurate to say that that is how they do characterize her.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:53 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Nation applauded the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 because she believed that he secretly drank alcohol and that drinkers always got what they deserved."

A great American and a great role model. We need more people taking the law into their own hands and destroying other people's property after hearing the voice of god.


Carrie Nation was a total fuck. But she was a fuck with a great deal of power for a woman in her day and age. Surely you understand that "powerful" is not always a compliment.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:56 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, who exactly is saying this about Nancy Pelosi? I mean, no one ever disputed that she is "powerful." Clearly, as Speaker of the House, she is literally the 3rd most powerful in the US, right behind the VP. But everyone has known this for a long time.

As for whether or not Pelosi is doing a good job, it's far too early to tell. Conservatives and 60% of the US population despise the current health care bill, no doubt, but that doesn't mean Pelosi has been effective, no matter how brave she has stood in the face of all the nasty comments made by meanie Republicans jerks. With control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency, the Democrats should be able to get all kinds of wealth redistribution going on. Unless we're all picking weeds in wet-rice fields in Arkansas under the employment of the Proletariat Communitarian State of the Wage-Workers of America by the year 2012, then the Democrats have failed.

Only time will tell--we'll have to wait and see how things turn out with cap and trade, financial regulation, and that little war in Afghanistan that Obama says will be finished by August. And, oh yeah, almost forgot about a couple things, like the economy, the gazillion dollar deficit, and jobs.
posted by stevenstevo at 11:05 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


game warden to the events rhino: "I'll give you a pass if this is a US/British difference, but the use of quotation marks around that term in the subhead hints at what is made amply clear in the article itself — that this is a description of how Pelosi's foes characterize her. And it's surely entirely accurate to say that that is how they do characterize her."

I'm probably reading it wrong, or putting too much emphasis on it, but the subhead implies a bit of agreement with that characterization doesn't it? I'm sure her opponents call her a lot of things, but I don't really like the way they just took it at face value.
posted by graventy at 11:11 AM on March 27, 2010


Both powerful and attractive. I am unsure if her power makes her more attractive, or the fact that she is 70 and still looks 40 (and is powerful). The only time she shows her age is when she struggles a bit to find the right phrase and then pulls one out of the 1940s.

Love that woman and I'd sure like to play some 9ball with her.
posted by HyperBlue at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Influence is power exercised indirectly, is it not?

No. Lots of people have been influential while being powerless. Just pulling one example out of my ass, Crispus Attucks was (arguably) influential in the course of American independence, but only because he happened to get randomly killed. Likewise, Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran may prove to have been influential, also only because she was struck by a bullet.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2010


stevensteveo wanna cite your "60 percent of the US population" quote?

Wait, never mind statistics are like assholes nowadays. Everybody has one and they all stink.
posted by HyperBlue at 11:17 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


the subhead implies a bit of agreement with that characterization doesn't it?

If it does that (and I'm not sure about that), I think it does so in a way that implies it's a good thing. After all, the rest of the subhead is straightforwardly glowing. Don't forget this is aimed primarily at a UK audience who assume all American politicians are some variety of right-wing.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember when Ms. Pelosi was a member of the board of supervisors here in San Francisco. She was competent, somewhat overly centrist for San Francisco's taste, but nonetheless, a solid citizen/politico. When she decided to run for the House, I thought it was not really that big a deal - I had no idea that she was so gifted in her capacity to move up the political chain.

I have to say, I'm really happy that she's in the position she's in. She's got San Francisco values all right - she's tough, she's fair-minded, and she cares about people who are outside the powerful elite.
posted by jasper411 at 11:25 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wait, never mind statistics are like assholes nowadays.

"Nowadays"? Do you realize how long your joke has been around?
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:26 AM on March 27, 2010


David Brooks is just ...just an awful thing.
posted by The Whelk


Screw you, man. I think it's inspiring that Milhouse grew up, left Springfield, and started writing for the Times.
posted by COBRA! at 11:35 AM on March 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm sure her opponents call her a lot of things, but I don't really like the way they just took it at face value.

Whoa. Extreme liberal is an epithet, now? Yes, to FOX News, but objectively? Glenn Beck is on teevee every night saying progressive is a euphemism for communist. Don't shy from labels when they're true.
posted by dhartung at 11:35 AM on March 27, 2010


"Nowadays"? Do you realize how long your joke has been around?

sure, the "everyone has an asshole" part Jaltcoh, but there was a time when statistics, means, averages and unbiased surveys were more scientific and less hyperbolic - concerned with accurate results, not talking point production. Of course no one pays much attention (or money) to commission those anymore.
posted by HyperBlue at 11:39 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm probably reading it wrong, or putting too much emphasis on it, but the subhead implies a bit of agreement with that characterization doesn't it?

Quite the opposite, I'd've thought - scare quotes are always used to show that the writer (or sub-editor in this case) doesn't agree with the term scare-quoted. And the second paragraph makes it clear what the scare quotes in the standfirst imply: "She was, her rightwing foes asserted, an extreme liberal..."

I mean, the Guardian's steady slide to the right in the twenty-odd years I've been reading it makes me sick, but they're still a long way off considering a Democrat left-wing (from a British perspective), or extremely liberal, or anything like it.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2010


Carrie Nation seems like a strange choice for the "most powerful woman" award. I could sort of see Jane Addams. I think it's sort of a silly discussion, because it's awfully hard to compare different kinds of power.
posted by craichead at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm probably reading it wrong, or putting too much emphasis on it, but the subhead implies a bit of agreement with that characterization doesn't it?

No. Bear in mind that she'd be on the right of the Tory party (our conservatives) just for believing that hospitals shouldn't be owned by the state.
posted by jaduncan at 12:43 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's hope not.
posted by Legomancer at 12:46 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]



But Carrie Nation and Margaret Sanger are also way ahead of Pelosi.

Wasn't she a terrorist?
posted by notreally at 12:56 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


You mean, other than Oprah?

I keed. At the same time: I would totally vote for an Oprah/Pelosi or Pelosi/Oprah Presidential ticket.

Back on topic: Rachel Maddow did a pretty great interview with Pelosi recently.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:07 PM on March 27, 2010


What about Mother Jones or Helen Thomas or Diana Prince?
posted by sallybrown at 1:18 PM on March 27, 2010


I'm not a fan for the hate on David Brooks. I caught the discussed clip on NPR, it was an awkward moment, but yeah, as somebody else noted, I don't see any evidence that he's a Lamarckian woman-hater.

I disagree with him (usually strongly and every time) on social policy issues, but it's nice to hear somebody on the opposing team who is not talking with a full-on bloody froth of crazy.
posted by angrycat at 1:22 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: No love for Madeline Albright?
posted by angrycat at 1:23 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alrighty, I see your argument. Guardian, I hereby retract my 'fuck you', and aim it squarely back at the opponents who threw the 'extreme' label at her. Because she is by no means an extreme liberal.
posted by graventy at 1:23 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


She can't even count. Go figure.
posted by doctorschlock at 1:27 PM on March 27, 2010


The right sees her as a radical feminist for stands such as taking on the notoriously prejudiced Senator Jesse Helms to his face when he blocked a treaty against discrimination against women.

Wow, that's all it takes to be a radical feminist these days?
posted by krakedhalo at 1:39 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bullshit, she's got stiff competition for that.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:41 PM on March 27, 2010


Oh yeah, Eleanor Roosevelt for sure.

But Nancy Pelosi? Don't be ridiculous. She explicitly told us that if there were no public option the insurance companies would have won. Was there a public option? So then who won?
posted by DU at 2:29 PM on March 27, 2010


Jack Donaghy says she singlehandedly caused the current economic downturn, so, yeah.
posted by longsleeves at 2:32 PM on March 27, 2010


Man, I miss Barbara Jordan something fierce.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:37 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sweet Jesus, Pelosi is 70?
I really thought she was in her fifties, tops.
posted by angrycat at 2:43 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget the near-brilliant Phyllis Schlafly who, hate her or love her for it, more or less single-handedly killed the ERA.
posted by cleancut at 2:50 PM on March 27, 2010


I'm not a fan of this adulation of Pelosi's appearance. She looks younger than 70 because she's gotten plastic surgery. I'm not criticizing her for this, but I don't think we should be showering her with praise over it either. It's a somewhat depressing reflection of the fact that society puts a high value on youth, especially for women. (And, you know, I don't remember people on this site gushing over John Edwards or Mitt Romney for looking hot for their age.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:53 PM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Both powerful and attractive. I am unsure if her power makes her more attractive, or the fact that she is 70 and still looks 40 (and is powerful).

Oh for Christ's sake.

Also: No mention of Clinton? She is Secretary of State and all.
posted by jokeefe at 3:03 PM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Does Botox also paralyze your moral compass?"
posted by homunculus at 3:07 PM on March 27, 2010


Oprah Winfrey? Madeleine Albright?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:09 PM on March 27, 2010


I'm inclined to think the difference between a powerful person and a merely influential person is that a powerful person can wake up a lot of mornings and say, "today I will effect change for a whole hell of a lot of people." Stowe, Nation, Parks, et al. weren't really in a place where they could do that most mornings. A powerful person can be influential at her own will. I'd say Speaker Pelosi is. Justice O'Connor had a long run of it. If the rumors about how much Edith Wilson ran the country are true, then she's certainly up there. Our female Secretaries of State might be half a notch below. And yeah, I kind of worry that Oprah might qualify.
posted by aswego at 3:22 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


My god, Pelosi is 70?! She looks about a decade younger than Newt or Hastert.
posted by Damn That Television at 3:26 PM on March 27, 2010


A great American and a great role model. We need more people taking the law into their own hands and destroying other people's property after hearing the voice of god.

Carrie Nation was a total fuck. But she was a fuck with a great deal of power for a woman in her day and age. Surely you understand that "powerful" is not always a compliment.


Surely you understand that nothing in my comment above contradicts the assertion that Carrie Nation was "powerful". Whether or not I agree with the assertion that Nation was more powerful than Pelosi is another thing entirely, and something my comment doesn't even address.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:43 PM on March 27, 2010


On retrospection, I should have linked to this Barbara Jordan speech, in which she delivers up, from her chair on the House Judiciary Committee to the American people, the corpse of the Nixon presidency.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:49 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not seeing the appeal in downplaying her importance as a response to the article, but knock yourselves out. As a young American woman, I'll just keep my inspired feeling. She raised five kids. She's a tough motherfucker and I admire her greatly.

My vote for "favorite powerful American woman" goes to Emma Goldman.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:27 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Emma Goldman.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:30 PM on March 27, 2010


Well, that'll teach me to dawdle and not preview...
posted by Sys Rq at 4:30 PM on March 27, 2010


jasper411: "42I remember when Ms. Pelosi was a member of the board of supervisors here in San Francisco. "

??? Really?
posted by gingerbeer at 4:55 PM on March 27, 2010


I'm not a fan of this adulation of Pelosi's appearance. She looks younger than 70 because she's gotten plastic surgery

for the record, i did not know that. i wasn't exclaiming in adulation, rather just utter surprise that she was that old. so i'm ignorant, not ickily fascinated with how she looks given her age
posted by angrycat at 5:02 PM on March 27, 2010


Didn't Nancy Reagan and her astrologers pretty much run Ronnie's second term?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:33 PM on March 27, 2010


Whatever. The teabaggers and Glenn Becks of the world can go fuck themselves. Nancy Pelosi is a badass totally on fire unapologetically liberal bitch who knows how to get shit done--and I love her to death for it. As I've mentioned before, I think women of her generation who have managed to become extremely powerful inspire a lot of hatred because they don't project enough sweetness or whatever. But hello--just imagine the amount of bullshit she had to put up with in order to get where she is today. The amount of shit talk now is ridiculous--of course she needed to develop a mile-thick skin to become the extraordinarily accomplished person she is. She has such a talent for keeping her eye on the ball, no matter how brutal the external realities. I admire her to death. Thanks to women like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, etc. it's a hell of a lot easier for women today to be ass-kicking and charming.

I love her. And not just because I only recently found out we get our hair cut by the same guy here in SF... That makes me almost as awesome as she is, right?
posted by ohyouknow at 5:47 PM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fuck.

I was thinking about mentioning the unfortunate arrival of this discussion at the address of her fairly or unfairly naturally or unnaturally youthful or attractive appearance, since that's just such a tired topic for all women in the public eye.

Then I did a google images search for her, mostly just to refresh my memory, to see how "worked" her face looks, or something. If google images is representative at all, she REALLY deserves to be exempted from critiques of her appearance from the likes of us. That is some heinous shit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:02 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


How much can she bench?

Can she shoot laser beams out of any part of her body?

Clearly, she can control fire with her mind, so that's a +1.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:04 PM on March 27, 2010


Not even close.
posted by stringbean at 11


Those people weren't powerful they were influential. If Rosa Parks had wanted to, say, get the U.S. out of Vietnam, or raise taxes, could she have? Probably not. On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi's decisions have a huge impact on things like wars, taxation, health care policy, basically every change to the law in this country has to go across her desk and she can kill it if she wants to.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


She was also notoriously outspoken and, at times, seemingly out of step with the mood of America. She vigorously opposed the invasion of Iraq, leading Newsweek to describe her leadership as making "the Democratic caucus look more dovish than even the French".

What the author meant to add, I'm sure, is that the Democrats and other anti-war Americans turned out to be absolutely right about nearly everything they said about the war (wrong about oil it seems, gas is still $3.00/gallon). Slipped his mind, I guess.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:19 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, who exactly is saying this about Nancy Pelosi? I mean, no one ever disputed that she is "powerful." Clearly, as Speaker of the House, she is literally the 3rd most powerful in the US, right behind the VP. But everyone has known this for a long time.
The VP doesn't have any power. He's like the president's sidekick. But the thing is, with the structure of the senate and the partisan breakdown an individual senator can "claim" a lot of power for themselves whenever they want. Pelosi has her power all the time. And it's not just her specific powers as speakers, but the influence she wields over the congress.

The nice thing about Pelosi, though, is that out of all the major Dem leaders and power players, she's the least apologetic about being a liberal. You never see her backing down under republican heat or acting like she's afraid of them. You don't see her going out of her way to make nice with the republicans or giving into their demands. Is she a hard-core liberal? Probably not champing at the bit to give in to the republicans like people in the Senate seem to want to do.
or the fact that she is 70 and still looks 40 (and is powerful)
Dianne Feinstein is almost 80. And Kathryn Bigelow is 59. It's called plastic surgery. And even with , I don't really think she looks like she's in her 40s to me. I'm surprised to hear that she's 70. I thought she was in her late 50s/ early 60s.

Wolfram Alpha says she's 70 years and 1 day old. So yesterday was her birthday. Huh.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is it just me, or does this make anyone think about the possibility of Hillary running for president and winning one day? She has the chops. Secretary of State doesn't hurt.

Hillary as president would certainly cover the concept, wouldn't it?
posted by Splunge at 7:55 PM on March 27, 2010


IMMA LET YOU FINISH, BUT BEYONCE DESERVES THE AWARD FOR MOST POWERFUL WOMAN IN AMERICAN HISTORY!
posted by happyroach at 8:13 PM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I ran into Pelosi around just after lunch today at the Ark Toy Store in San Francisco while I was look for a parasol for a six year old friend's birthday, and in person she looks like she isn't a day over 50. She looks like death when photographed. Poor lady.

No one wears pant suits in San Francisco, though, so her security was hilariously out of place. If they had dressed more sensibly, I would have had no idea that it was she, since she looked so much younger than I had seen in newspapers and such.
posted by J-Train at 8:14 PM on March 27, 2010


being a Muppet version of Dr. Pangloss busily fellating the upper class

Strictly speaking, wouldn't that really just be a handjob?
posted by me & my monkey at 8:20 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


does this make anyone think about the possibility of Hillary running for president and winning one day?

She as much as completely ruled it out the last interview I read. She won't run until Obama's done or after he's replaced by a Republican, so that means 2016 at the earliest. She would be 69 years, 86 days old on inauguration day 2017, making her the second oldest President. I just don't see it happening.

The VP doesn't have any power.

*cough* President of the Senate *cough*

She explicitly told us that if there were no public option the insurance companies would have won. Was there a public option? So then who won?

Well, clearly the insurance companies won a bill that would help their stocks the day after passage. In the end one had to choose between supporting a bill that expanded health care and a bill that regulated the insurance companies the way they need to be regulated. The lovely thing is that doing the second first would have gotten us no closer to the first, but doing the first first means that insurance policies, practices and profits are now part of the public dialog, so booyah.
posted by dhartung at 9:47 PM on March 27, 2010


Rachel Carson. That's some power. If only Pelosi could grab that baton and run with it.

I'd also go with Harriet Beecher Stowe. Even Lincoln said of her, "So you're the little lady who started this great war."
posted by tzikeh at 10:24 PM on March 27, 2010


Er, my previous comment should not be interpreted as detracting Pelosi's awesome power. Go Nancy!
posted by tzikeh at 10:26 PM on March 27, 2010


Wait, never mind statistics are like assholes nowadays. Everybody has one and they all stink.

I was born with an imperforate anus, so thanks for thoughtlessly discriminating those of us with an inferior anal status.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:58 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rachel Carson. That's some power. If only Pelosi could grab that baton and run with it.

Again, that's not power it's influence. The ability to convince people to do something they think is a good idea, or get them to think your ideas are good is influence. Being able to tell people what to do, regardless of their feelings on the matter is power.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Nancy Pelosi the most powerful woman in American history?

Funny, when I read the post (but not the article), I figured well, yeah, she has had some major influence on recent history (and thus the future) by

1) saying impeachment was off the table for Bush
2) effectively killing off some favored ideas for health care (single-payer or public-option, I can't remember)
posted by whatzit at 5:26 AM on March 28, 2010


I am impressed as hell that she has five children.

Ironically, I started to post this last night but was distracted by a child calling me to the kitchen to help cook something. Then another child came in that required a more in depth conversation. There is always a chunk of brain actvity attuned to offspring and a subtle shift that happens once the children out number the adults in the household and there is no longer man to man coverage. When my kids were younger i found myself doing a tracking calculation almost continually assessing where each child was and what they were doing. Just the years of being pregnant and nursing most likely gave her a later start in politics than many of her male peers.

I didn't know that her father and brother were Baltimore mayors. Again, more impressive as she does not carry their name and crossed the country to start her life with her husband. I can't imagine people in San Francisco cared about her stellar Baltimore connections. This is what George H W Bush claimed to do by moving to Texas, but he kept that family money and infuence ties.

I hate, hate, hate how the right demonizes Pelosi and Hillary in a purely misogynistic way. The Google image search that AV linked to turns my stomach. They are both attractive women, who as a adjustment to living a public life must be attuned to their looks more than most of us and have altered their looks as they see fit. I have an old friend that sends on emails that make the rounds on the right that she gets from her siblings. The stuff about Pelosi has been maddening, but I never knew about her background.

The right's version of the Madonna/Whore complex is the good mother whose only political statement is the yellow ribbon magnet on her car when she sends her son off to war vs the shrewish, abortion loving, bossy bitch.
posted by readery at 6:11 AM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know who else had five children?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:46 AM on March 28, 2010


I am impressed as hell that she has five children.
It's interesting how she did it, though. She had her kids young, and she didn't run for office until the youngest one was a senior in high school. It's sort of the opposite of how most women of my generation do things: we generally try to get started on our careers and then have our kids in our 30s.
I didn't know that her father and brother were Baltimore mayors. Again, more impressive as she does not carry their name and crossed the country to start her life with her husband. I can't imagine people in San Francisco cared about her stellar Baltimore connections. This is what George H W Bush claimed to do by moving to Texas, but he kept that family money and infuence ties.
I think that her husband had pretty stellar political connections in San Francisco, though, and he definitely had money, which didn't hurt her political career. I don't think you can really blame any American politician for exploiting their connections, though. That's the way the game is played. And it's certainly the way the game is played in the Baltimore Democratic machine, which is where she learned how to do politics. That's ok by me: the Democrats could do worse than channeling their machine roots occasionally.
posted by craichead at 6:52 AM on March 28, 2010


This thread wasn't planted here to prove male privilege, was it? We're not literally having a conversation about the physical appearance of the most powerful woman in the world, are we?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:06 AM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'll bite: John Edwards and Mitt Romney are both quite attractive and youthful-looking for their ages.

And Barack Obama is attractive for any age.
posted by scrowdid at 8:38 AM on March 28, 2010


Yeah, Sarah Palin is pretty powerful, which is a sad indictment on the state of affairs in this country.

Im surprised no one has mentioned Abigail Adams yet. She had quite a big role in shaping the US in it's birth and infancy.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2010


There's too much focus on looks instead of capability, and it's often used in a hateful way towards women. If Pelosi looked like, say, a female version of Dennis Hastert, she'd be mocked and despised for her looks, just in a different way . She's effective, and she has good goals. She and Obama make a good team.
posted by theora55 at 2:14 PM on March 28, 2010


then again there was that joan of arc lady..
posted by joose at 6:47 PM on March 28, 2010


Can someone explain the ludicrous way she gets demonized by the right? I can understand a little antipathy towards the party in power, but to hear these guys talk you'd think she killed their dog. Is it just base misogyny, or is there some more interesting story to this I'm missing?
posted by heathkit at 1:06 AM on March 29, 2010


dhartung, I'm a fan of your facts-first approach, but I really don't agree with your characterization of Gingrich's tenure as Speaker. I'd say he's primarily remembered for two things: writing the Contract with America, which happened before he was Speaker, and the government shutdown, which was a loser for Republicans. His denouement as Speaker arrived with his huge sanction from Congressional ethics bodies, and he is the only Congressman to be sanctioned like that while being Speaker.

The only remaining claim to fame I could come up was stopping Clinton's health care reform, but that also happened before he was Speaker.

I just don't see a standout list of accomplishments, offensive or defensive, for Gingrich in his tenure as Speaker.
posted by NortonDC at 7:39 AM on March 29, 2010


Is it just base misogyny, or is there some more interesting story to this I'm missing?
It's largely misogyny, but there's also the whole "San Francisco" thing, which is code for a lot of other cultural baggage. "New York liberal" means "overeducated Jewish people who think they're better than real Americans." "San Francisco liberal" is a variation which means "overeducated gay people who think they're better than real Americans." More or less.
posted by craichead at 7:45 AM on March 29, 2010


Is it just base misogyny, or is there some more interesting story to this I'm missing?

Well, there are, like, political reasons and stuff, you know. I don't think Pelosi gets it any harder from Republicans than Newt Gingrich got from Democrats back in his day. Granted, Gingrich deserved it more.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on March 29, 2010


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