Who is the most powerful woman in the United States today? It’s not Hillary Clinton, whose fortunes peaked a few years ago; we all know the story of her rise and fall. No, according to Forbes, those consummate rankers of the wealthy and powerful, it is none other than Nancy Pelosi (b.1940), Speaker of the House and highest ranking elected official in U.S. history. She is seven years older than Baby Boomer Clinton, and from an earlier generation – the Silent Generation.
Taking a look at the Forbes lists over the years, it’s interesting to note that most of the American woman on it are C-level executives in the private sector. Other countries have their Chancellors and Prime Ministers, but the U.S. has its CEOs and COOs – reflecting perhaps the entrepreneurial bent of American society, or perhaps its failing in never having elected a woman to the Presidency. When government officials do make the list, they are usually in the executive branch, which makes Pelosi’s appearance as a member of the House of Representatives all the more remarkable.
Of course, she is no ordinary Representative. She is the first woman to hold the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives, and in fact the first woman to lead a party caucus in the United States Congress (which she has done since 2003). That would actually make her the only woman to have achieved this. She has held her seat since 1987, representing the city and county of San Francisco, and one key to her success is that she has one of the safest seats in Congress for Democrats.
Now, that’s not to downplay her merits as a politician and a leader. She’s has been very effective at guiding her caucus in a time of intense partisan warfare, and was an instrumental part of its major achievement in this era – the Affordable Care Act. Now she leads the Democrats in their first year with a Congressional majority in the Trump era, following the 2018 mid-term elections – and this after weathering opposition from within her own party.
Standing atop the Democrats’ only hold on power in the United States government, Pelosi’s primary accomplishment has been persisting in the face a hostile Senate and an unpredictable and disgracefully immature President. Her way of handling Trump is patient and resolute, like an exasperated mother dealing with a troublesome child. It’s summed up in an image of her that went viral during the 2019 State of the Union address, when he made comments about the need for unity and she rewarded him with a hand clap. If her applause was mocking in any way, surely Trump’s comments were just as insincere.
Pelosi has never lost track of the seriousness of our current state of affairs, and of her responsibility as leader of the House, and undoubtedly will be most remembered by history for her decision to impeach President Trump following revelations that he abused the power of his office in an attempt to influence the upcoming elections. It’s a decision she delayed longer than some might have wished, but in her role the choice was hers to make, and her timing may prove to be the wisest in the end. In deciding to proceed with the impeachment, she has restored honor to a troubled U.S. government. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming trial, I am grateful to her for her leadership, and to her generation – the Silent generation – for sticking around to help us deal with those obstreperous Baby Boomers.
Nancy Pelosi was already included in my “Silent of the Week” post covering Congressional leadership. In light of recent events, and with Forbes naming her the most powerful woman in America, I hereby declare Nancy Pelosi 2019’s Silent of the Year.