What Pelosi’s letter tells us about her resignation from her leadership role

Nancy Pelosi’s no-farewell speech Thursday captured the essence of her history-making career.

The outgoing Speaker was, as ever, immaculately looking. She was dressed in white, the color of the suffrage movement, of which Pelosi is a boon and a huge champion.

I read, faithfully, from the prepared notes full of the typical advice and truisms–a reference to the “Star-Spangled Banner,” a paean to the Capitol Building and the dome of the moon’s glow in the night–that fill her often uninspired speeches.

Above all, she was clear-eyed and unemotional. Her voice trembled only briefly when Pelosi mentioned her husband, Paul, who is still recovering from an attack by a hammer-wielding assailant who broke into the couple’s San Francisco home on a mission of hate and political revenge.

Pelosi’s great strength was not that of a public speaker. Rather, it’s the skills she brings to speakers: tremendous political savvy, mastery of the legislative process, lack of blind ideology and — not least — the ability to count votes, read the room and know when to call the vote, and when to move forward.

Pelosi gave her word, four years ago when her control of the Democratic caucus was shaky under pressure from ambitious younger members, that she would serve no more than two more terms as speaker.

That time ran out in January, and the Democrats’ much better-than-expected performance in last week’s midterm elections gave her a great way to make good on her promise. She knew her departure was expected — though she said her phone had been “exploding” in recent days with pleas to stay on as the Democratic leader — and now she could take her leave and do so in the absence of a dark cloud.

Her decision to remain in Congress, and once again return to the ranks of Democrats, was a surprise, though Pelosi—the first woman speaker in history and one of the most accomplished figures ever to wield the gavel—wouldn’t be typically straightforward.

President Biden and Pelosi’s Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, have made clear their desire to stay, and she will no doubt be available to advise those two and whoever replaces her as chair of the Democratic Caucus. For her part, Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she has no intention of interfering or speculating.

(Shrewd to the brim, it was no coincidence that Pelosi’s announcement coincided with — and largely overshadowed — the Republicans’ first day as a majority in waiting and withheld the announcement that the new GOP majority would launch an investigation into Biden and his family’s business dealings.)

“If you knew Nancy Pelosi as far back as she was, as she said, she was just a housewife, then that’s exactly what you’d expect,” said Art Agnos, a former San Francisco mayor and friend of Pelosi. family. “She leaves gracefully and with dignity while promising to be around and available if she can help anyone.”

If there was a disappointment — and no one dared speak out loud about it — it is among the ranks of politicians in San Francisco, who quietly waited for the day Pelosi would stand aside. It is not a sign of disrespect. On the contrary, Pelosi is a well-liked and beloved institution in the city that she has represented in Congress for more than three decades.

Rather, it is the fact that Pelosi has been in office so long and generations of potential successors have aged and retired from public life, their hopes lingering as her term continues.

Anyone looking to secure a seat in Congress — the only one San Francisco has to offer — will have to wait at least another two years. Pelosi was just re-elected for the 18th time last week with 84% support. As hard as it is to imagine, it’s not out of the question to see Pelosi in action again in 2024, at the age of 84, and it’s easy going into her 19th semester.

Four years ago, sipping espresso at a bistro in downtown Miami, Pelosi plunged into a rare discussion about her political future. She is very sensitive to the subject, a common aversion among members of Congress and others close to the speaker.

But on that sunny day, as she campaigned in the midterm elections that would return Democrats to power and restore Pelosi to the speakership, she was unusually open to the discussion.

“I see myself as a transitional figure,” Pelosi said in an interview, in which she expressed her characteristic confidence of victory and the restoration of the speaking gavel. “I have things to do. Books to write; places to go; grandchildren, first of all, love.”

Pelosi named those grandkids Thursday in a proud tribute as she spoke from the home well. But they will have to wait for her full attention. So, too, are any books you might want to write.

Pelosi is not finished in Congress.

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