Democrats need their top general — Pelosi — in age of Trump

Democrats should elect current House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiYellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Tokyo Olympics kick off with 2020-style opening ceremony MORE (D-Calif.) speaker of the House. Full stop. Anything short of that would be the worst kind of political malpractice.

This would especially be the case following a historic blue wave that handed the Democrats their biggest takeover of the House of Representatives since Watergate, in the face of seemingly insurmountable Republican gerrymandering that kept the GOP in power for over a decade and against massive amounts of outside money from conservative groups.

Ousting Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the Democratic Party in the House at this moment would be tantamount to handing the Republicans a machete that would shred the speaker’s gavel if it were in anyone else’s hands.

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While it is thrilling that Democrats won in such an overwhelming manner — taking the popular vote by more than 5 million votes in the House, the challenge to govern in this hyperpolarized era is a stark reality. Democrats have a young, fresh, diverse, whip-smart and exciting incoming freshman class.

They are also completely inexperienced in the ways of the House, the rules of legislating, the strategies to get things done, how to win as a caucus and how to win for the people who voted for them. 

Democrats desperately need the kind of experience and battle-tested steeliness, along with the progressive commitment to Democratic and American values that Pelosi brings.

She is a historically effective tactician who knows how to operate under Republican control in Washington, and Democrats need their toughest general to take on the historic peril of Trump's presidency. 

Pelosi has served as speaker under a Republican-controlled White House before and has proven time and again that she can out-maneuver, out-negotiate and out-wit congressional Republicans. It is why they dislike her so much.

She is a legislative mastermind who did not lose a single major vote during the last Congress, on everything from tax cuts to the Affordable Care Act, to repeal of the farm bill.

Pelosi was critical to passage of the Dodd-Frank financial protections, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the toughest ethics reform in the history of Congress, the first increase of minimum wage in a decade and repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," to name just a few.

So why is there such opposition to her in her own party? There actually isn’t. In fact, support for her has grown, not diminished. The infamous letter of opposition to her had a lot less names on it than were promised by her detractors.

What's more, to point to the obvious problem with the dwindling anti-Pelosi crowd, who will they replace her with? And what are the real reasons for their urge to replace her?

Polling shows the GOP attacks on Pelosi did not move voters in battleground districts. Democrats won because of their focus on health care and other top issues — a tactic Nancy Pelosi pushed — and because of voters’ disgust with President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE, not because of anti-Pelosi sentiment. 

A Morning Consult poll released before election day showed that despite the barrage of anti-Pelosi ads, 51 percent of voters said they were thinking "a lot" about Trump, compared to only 13 percent of voters who said they were thinking "a lot" about Pelosi when considering their vote. A 43-percent plurality said they were not thinking about Pelosi "at all" — including 53 percent of Republicans.

Pelosi has overwhelming support from her caucus and has broad support in the Democratic Party. A poll by The Economist/YouGov, released on Oct. 24 found that Pelosi's support among Democrats was at 60 percent, 10 points higher than Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada Schumer blasts McCarthy for picking people who 'supported the big lie' for Jan. 6 panel MORE (D-N.Y.). 

Sadly, it seems the anti-Pelosi faction is blackmailing the Democratic caucus into crisis. They are doing the Republicans' bidding. Just as the Tea Party did to the Republican Party, this small faction is dividing the party and pitting it against itself. 

Let’s remember that this faction does not have the mandate of voters: They are overwhelmingly more conservative than Pelosi, not diverse, and the rumored alternative speaker candidate was one of just two Democrats to refuse to sign on to the Equality Act, which extends civil rights protections to LGBTQ Americans.

An analysis by Politico Magazine found at least 25 Democrats flipped districts without attacking Pelosi, enough on their own for Democrats to claim a House majority. 

There is an argument to be made that Democrats should attempt to bring in younger leadership at the highest levels. Pelosi herself has vowed to continue nurturing younger and more diverse talent the way she has already been doing. And she should.

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But it may be tempting to conclude that the easiest way to bring in new leadership is to oust the top person no matter how successful she has been. But that wouldn’t just be stupid, it would be intellectually dishonest. I implore the Democrats to resist the temptation. 

Pelosi helped deliver the most diverse caucus in history, which will now be more than 60-percent women, LGTBQ and people of color, and is bringing that diversity to leadership. A total of 11 of 22 of the new committee chairs will be women, LGBTQ and people of color.

The last thing that Democrats will want to do when they elect a historic number of women and women of color to Congress is tell the one and only woman who has ever held a seat at the top levels of American government that she needs to be replaced by a man. 

It would be a horrible look for the party that portrays itself as pro-women, anti-bigotry and anti-sexism. We won. Let’s not diminish that win.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.