By John Nichols
Nancy Pelosi has proven to be a far more politically savvy Speaker of the House than most of her critics, and some of her fans, expected. This is not to say that she has done enough to end the war in
Even conservative commentator Bob Novak, via the anything but Pelosi-friendly Evans-Novak political wire, commented that, 'The 'hundred hours' program of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been a success beyond all anticipation. The passage of poll-approved measures came with a unanimous Democratic vote and heavy -- in some cases majority -- Republican support. This performance shows the error and futility of Republican expectations that Pelosi as speaker would fall on her face...'
But Pelosi's most achievement cannot solely be measure in the legislation that has passed the House. It is also important to pay attention to her outreach to constituencies that Democrats tended to ignore during the
On Friday, Pelosi will deliver the keynote address at the National Farmers Union's 105th annual convention. Her focus will be on opportunities for development in rural communities, with special attention to increasing the use of renewable fuels. The speaker recognizes that there is common ground on which the party's environmentally-conscious base can stand with farmers, and she is paying a lot of attention to that turf.
But the most important thing about Pelosi's appearance at the NFU convention in
For years, Democrats prattled on and on about how to appeal to this suburb or that suburb, failing to recognize that they were losing winnable House seats in the vast rural stretches beyond metropolitan America. Campaign after campaign went by, with Republicans printing up their 'Farmers and Ranchers for Gingrich,' 'Farmers and Ranchers for Dole,' 'Farmers and Ranchers for Bush' signs and, by virtue of minimal attention to rural voters, gaining victories that never should have gone to the party of corporate agribusiness. The Democratic Party's failure to address basic concerns of rural
Along with the new Democratic chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees,
Others, particularly Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and that state's new Democratic senator, Jon Tester, have worked hard and well to get Democrats to recognize that there are unmet economic and social needs in rural America -- not to mention significant openings for smart electoral appeals by a Democratic Party that recognizes and addresses those needs. But Pelosi, a native of
NFU President Tom Buis says '[Pelosi] is leading the charge to develop strong rural policy in Congress.'
That is high praise, indeed, for a big-city politician like Pelosi. But she has earned it by going out of her way to pay attention to rural