If leading a House caucus was easy, then everyone who ever did it would serve for two decades, claim the speaker’s gavel twice, withstand merciless mockery and shepherd several landmark bills to the Oval Office. But Nancy Pelosi practically stands alone. Only Sam Rayburn’s tenure eclipses hers in length, and he didn’t have to suffer years of brutal television ads attacking him as a San Francisco radical.
Democrats who have been dependent on her steely demeanor and impossibly precise vote counts may feel unsteady, even those younger lawmakers frustrated at how long she clung to power. Pelosi’s apparent successor, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, will immediately face pressure to maintain party unity in a narrowly divided House.
Can Jeffries — or anyone — replicate Pelosi’s accomplishments and legacy? Fortunately, for those paying close attention, the outgoing speaker offered a 20-year master class of legislative leadership.
Here are five big lessons Pelosi taught us about how change is really made in Washington.