By: David E. Bonior
A senator once said, “Loyalty is the holiest good in the human heart.” That senator was Seneca, who, 2000 years ago in Rome, understood that loyalty to a person, an idea and a set of principles is an indispensable quality of character in a leader.
Throughout her career, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been a loyal warrior in the constant struggle to maintain and expand the middle class.
When I retired as Democratic whip in 2002, after 15 years in the House leadership, I took the unprecedented step of endorsing Pelosi to succeed me. She won -- and was on the path to speakership.
It was important to me that the country has a woman in line for the highest congressional job. And Pelosi brought a long record of accomplishments for working families to her new role.
Yes, she is from San Francisco, and has been blessed by personal wealth - associations that her opponents use to vilify her. But unlike many that achieve financial success, she held firm to her core values. The middle class has had no more loyal champion. Let's look at her record in just the past two years.
Under her leadership, the Recovery Act passed. It has created or saved more than 3 million jobs so far, cut taxes for 98 percent of families and businesses and invested in the clean energy jobs of the future.
Then there was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to give women in the workplace equal pay; bills to extend credit to small business owners so they could grow and hire; and legislation to strengthen America's manufacturers - making it in America, so our workers can make it in America.
In a success that eluded so many before her, Pelosi led passage of health insurance reform to lower costs and ensure access to quality, affordable care for 32 million more Americans. This law is the definition of progress for families and workers: kids no longer denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions; patients no longer dropped from coverage when they fall ill; seniors able to afford prescription drugs; and young adults able to stay on their parents' plans. With this bill, our country can be stronger, our workers more prosperous, our families more secure.
Few accomplishments reflect Democrats' commitment to working families more than financial reform. It places the jobs of Main Street workers ahead of the profits of Wall Street chief executives. In the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Pelosi was tenacious in beating back weakening amendments -- some from the Senate, others from the White House. She championed the stronger and more progressive position on issue after issue. When others were caving in to the other side, Pelosi held firm and steady.
I believe her record, if controversial today, will be viewed historically as one of the great leadership feats in U.S. parliamentary annals.
As a former House leadership member, I can assure you this is no easy task. The record is a testament to Pelosi's values--to her unwavering conviction that the Democratic Party must, and will, stand for economic justice for every worker, and a level playing field for every family.
As the dust settles from the midterm election, and progressives take stock of the best way to preserve our gains and to move the country forward, no one is better suited to lead our party and continue the fight for the middle class than Pelosi. She is a strong, smart, thoughtful and pragmatic leader.
The Republican leadership and tea party leadership are likely to continue their assault to tear down all that has been achieved these last two years. In these tough times we need a tough leader.
David E. Bonior served as a Democratic congressman from Michigan, 1976-2002. He is now chairman of American Rights at Work and is a visiting professor at the University of Iowa.