Nancy Pelosi is in an enviable position, the most powerful Democrat in Congress at a time of national ascendancy for her party, but she seems a little nervous.
Part of this is her nature. Just like her two-decade climb up the Democratic ranks, Pelosi’s two years as House Speaker have been marked by a style that might best be described as justifiably paranoid. She has relied on a close and tight-lipped circle of loyalists, frozen out those who have crossed her, and made examples of those who have threatened her hegemony. It may sound ugly, but this is how you survive in the U.S. House, especially when you’ve risen higher than any woman in history.
But there’s something else going on, too: For all of her success in consolidating power within the House, one man has eluded her grasp these past few years – and he’s about to be the second-most powerful man in the White House.
That would be Rahm Emanuel, who has given up his Illinois congressional seat to become Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Pelosi and Emanuel aren’t exactly enemies, but there’s not much trust between them and there’s plenty of reason for the Speaker to be apprehensive about what he might do with his new power. After all, he’s the only Democrat in the House since she became the party’s leader to show the ability to outmaneuver Pelosi.
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