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Nancy Pelosi should be Speaker of the House

The mid-term elections were a striking rebuke of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. While the gains continue to increase, current results show that Democrats easily flipped the House of Representatives and seized control of the chamber. The advantages didn’t stop with Congress: Election Day also produced seven Democratic governorships in red states, flipped six state legislatures, and gave the party nearly 350 state legislative seats.

One constant of GOP campaigns across the country was the vilification of Nancy Pelosi, with millions of dollars of advertising attempting to tie her to local Democratic challengers. This strategy failed dismally in almost every one of the toss-up races.{mosads}

While the President and GOP incumbents also tried to rouse voters by scaring them with racist claims involving crime and immigration, Democrats ran on a strategy that was devised by Pelosi calling for protecting healthcare, and ignoring the negative trolling. Her direction led Democratic candidates to run on positive messages specific to their districts. The result? The Democrats won more House seats than in any election since 1974, which was the first following President Nixon’s resignation.

That strategy and that result have produced an incoming class of Democrats that looks as diverse as America and brings a range of life experiences – these Democratic winners are military veterans, teachers, small business owners and local or first-time office holders. Among the newly elected Democratic members, there are 34 women, including Lori Trahan and Ayanna Pressley in my home state of Massachusetts.

As Democrats in the House begin the discussion of who should lead them, it is crucial they focus on the fundamental roles of Speaker of the House – to pass legislation and steer the ship through experienced oversight.

My father, Speaker Tip O’Neill, worked across party lines to forge compromises with a Republican president. One of the key reasons for my father’s success as Speaker was that he spent years learning how to legislate and gained vital experience as Majority Whip and Majority Leader. In Congress, experience is not just about respect, it’s about results. As Speaker, Nancy Pelosi brings to the podium a wealth of experience and success – Exhibit A being the passage of the Affordable Care Act and its treasured protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

She knows how to pass bills. She knows how to steer a sometime cumbersome ship. She has worked to reach across the aisle when necessary. Simply put: You change leadership when it suffers catastrophic losses, not when you win elections.

Newt Gingrich turned the role of Speaker into a television personality, a cable television ringmaster, and – given the role of media – that caricature has continued. With Nancy Pelosi there’s a real opportunity to retain unmatched legislative ability while also, crucially, showcasing the Democratic future – our extraordinary new class in Congress.

Speaker Pelosi must put into positions of substantive power and high profile a diverse group that immediately takes on public-facing roles, and she needs to recognize the energy of younger members, even if for now they are in her opposition. Rep. Seth Moulton and other members pushing for change need to bring their passion on board at a time when this country needs strong Democratic leadership more than at any time in my life.

Nothing would provide a more compelling contrast to the nearly all-male, all-white, all-lock-step conservative teams of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and it would send a clear message that Democrats represent all Americans – a powerful driver as we enter the watershed election of 2020.

Finally, there are real substantive dangers if we use this moment of victory to rebuff the merits of experience and seniority. There will be major consequences if we decide that seniority doesn’t matter. Long-serving Democrats like my friends Representatives Richie Neal and Jerry Nadler are poised to become the chairs of important House Committees. Their ascension in leadership means a lot to the country in tangible ways that families and businesses will see in new jobs, dollars for research and innovation and improvements to infrastructure. And our entire New England delegation – every single one of them a member of the new majority – will finally be able to reverse the recent damage done to our environment, our schools, healthcare and our roads and bridges by policies and actions this country firmly rejected Nov. 6.

Thomas P. O’Neill III is the founder and CEO of O’Neill and Associates, former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and the son of House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.

Tags Donald Trump Jerry Nadler Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi Seth Moulton Tip O'Neill United States House of Representatives

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