Nov 092006
Authors: Hilary Davis

History will be made in more ways than one with the Democrat-controlled 110th Congress. Nancy Pelosi, currently the House minority leader, is expected to become the first female speaker of the House.

“Nancy Pelosi will become the first female speaker of the House. Period,” said political science professor John Straayer. “Her place in the history books is assured.”

A female speaker of the House is long overdue, he added.

“I think it was about time in 1940, or 1840,” Straayer said. “This is another event of many over the years when women move to positions of prominence.”

Pelosi has represented California’s 8th Congressional District since 1987.

Chris Linder, director of Women’s Programs and Studies at CSU, says Pelosi’s impending nomination pushes the country in the right direction.

Pelosi, 66, is continuing what “began with Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice,” Linder said. “The fact that women are going into such strong leadership positions is becoming more normalized. That’s a great step.”

Pelosi made history in 2002 when she was elected by her party to become the first female House minority leader.

“Her rise to a position of political influence has taken place in a context of the elevation of women lawmakers to positions of influence across the country,” Straayer said. “It’s a matter of historical note, but it’s not wildly unexpected.”

She’s soft-spoken and often appears matronly, but this image contrasts sharply with Pelosi’s aggressive persona. She says she is proud to be a liberal and in a recent interview with Time magazine said, “Anybody who’s ever dealt with me knows not to mess with me.”

Pelosi is a partisan and has demanded that House Democrats vote the party line and avoid compromising with Republicans. Such partisanship isn’t always popular, but for Pelosi, it has worked.

“She’s not too liberal for her district, but that’s not the critical question,” Straayer said. “The critical question is whether she can keep the Democrats united and push her party’s platform.”

For some Americans, it will be a challenge to accept a female as the third person in line for the presidency.

“We live in a society that is still biased against women,” Linder said. “Some people will make inappropriate comments about her because she’s a woman.”

For Pelosi, the challenge seems to be not her gender but her ability to shelve her partisan past to operate across the aisle without alienating Republicans, Straayer says.

“The Republicans have relegated the minority party to irrelevance,” Straayer said. “If she pursues a similar course, it will come back to haunt her and the Democrats quickly.”

Based on her past performance, Straayer says, Pelosi probably won’t be passing out hugs and making nice in her new position.

“She’s not exactly lovey-dovey,” he chuckled. “But there’s a middle ground between lovey-dovey and Attila the Hun. I think she’s in that middle ground.”

Staff writer Hilary Davis can be reached at

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