Dear Congresswoman —
You’ve been my Congressional Representative since I moved to San Francisco in 1992, and a swell one you’ve been, no doubt about it. From your first House floor speech about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment funding to your efforts as a member of the Progressive Caucus to fight the war, torture and wiretapping machine of the Bush/Cheney era, you’ve done San Francisco proud. As a transplant to your wonderful City, I’ve been satisfied with your representation of our wacky, lefty views — as a Congresswoman.
But I’m moving away now, and I have a piece of advice I’d like you to consider. Please.
No one will ever forget your efforts as Minority Leader to stop the Social Security “reform” juggernaut of the second Bush term in its tracks — simply by not talking about it, just by refusing to offer an alternative, primarily by disengaging on the topic of “reform,” you humbled a President determined to steal even more money for his cronies than they managed to thieve from us in eight years. Thank you so very much for that.
And when you became Speaker, no one was prouder than I. Seeing you on the dais, with your giant gavel, surrounded by all the children of House members: all of San Francisco was bursting with pride, knowing that you would show America what San Francisco values were. Many of us did not realize then that your installation as Speaker would perhaps be the day we were proudest of you. Like a bride who tells everyone as she gets hitched, “This is the happiest day of my life!” we could have been warned: be careful what you wish for. Because the days since you took the gavel? Some I’m not so proud of.
Here’s a tip for America: when your Congressional Representative becomes Speaker, even more than when he or she enters the House leadership, even more than being selected Minority Leader, something happens. You lose your Congressperson. Suddenly, the person you’ve elected to Congress is second in line to the Presidency and a Constitutional officer with responsibilities to the whole country and not simply to your wacky parochial views. While I am sure Denny Hastert’s constituents, and Newt Gingrich’s, gave up something in a representative for the honor of having their congressman become Speaker, I am not so sure it was the same for us in San Francisco.
We lost a lot.
Suddenly, Mrs Pelosi, you had a table to set, and something to take off it. In the phrase that will echo down history’s halls long after your groundbreaking Speakership is no longer the only but simply the first of many non-male, non-WASP, and probably non-white wielders of that gavel, you declared about the warmongers who had barely been elected to twice lead America that “impeachment is off the table.” I’m still not sure why you did that — was there really so much else to accomplish in the two years you led the House, only to see those accomplishments either die in the Senate or be vetoed by The Dauphin? The record of your first two years in the House is sparse, in terms of actual legislative accomplishments. The president got all the war funding he asked for, and then some. The wiretapping of Americans didn’t stop. No big moments we look back on and say, “That’s where we got our country back.” Perhaps that was simply the deal presented by The Dark Side: impeach, or live. Your choice. Who knows?
And, horrifically, the table you set without impeachment, when you knew better than any of us the war crimes and illegalities that riddled The Dark Side, has morphed into an awful precedent: “looking forward not backward” is the mantra of our new Democratic president. It seems that no one will be held accountable for anything done in our name — and you know best how heinous much of that was — except for those who made sure we knew about it. The only Bush era criminals to be prosecuted will be the whistle-blowers about Bush era crimes.
This is probably your fault, actually. How could a new Democratic president encourage his Justice Department to seek out wrongdoers in our midst when the entire branch of government you headed had already decided two years prior that the constitutional remedy for wrongdoing was null and void?
It didn’t matter that your constituents had voted overwhelmingly to impeach Bush and Cheney.
It also didn’t matter that your constituents were hugely in favor of single-payer health care. It didn’t matter that your constituents — knowing as we do that the wiretap evidence is right here in our midst on Folsom Street! — wanted to see phone company executives held responsible for their lawbreaking. It didn’t matter that your constituents, in vast numbers, oppose the wars you continue to fund through special supplemental appropriations, a practice you promised to end in partnership with our new Democratic President.
And, apparently, it doesn’t matter that America, along with San Francisco, wants to eliminate discrimination in employment against non-straight peoples, whether in military or civilian life. You’ve set the table the way your majority-makers let you set it — Blue Doggie converts from Republicanism recruited by corporatist hedge fund executive Rahm Emanuel to prevail over progressive and populist Democrats who might have supported your agenda and not simply the Democratic Party’s new funders’.
If it is your agenda anymore; I’m just not sure. I know the Nancy Pelosi San Francisco sent to Congress twenty-three years ago had a proud liberal agenda. But when Speaker Nancy Pelosi stands up now for the values of the Democratic party’s Big Pharma, Big Hedge, and Big Insurance funders, I’m not sure you are our representative anymore. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi directs the rule-making to prevent floor action or amendment on any progressive issues, I’m not sure who you represent any more. San Francisco has essentially lost our voice in Congress; our representative should be among the farthest left, pulling the Democratic caucus to the progressive side, bending the arc of justice to the people. I expect our Congresswoman to work alongside Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, John Lewis, and Maxine Waters to make America better for people, not corporations. San Francisco doesn’t want our representative, once in a position of power, to be able to shut down investigations into impeachable offenses by the House Judiciary Committee.
That’s not why we sent you to Washington.
You have let me down, Mrs Pelosi. And many other constituents, too. Yes, I am proud, yes — I had tears in my eyes when you took that gavel. But I would have rather had you fighting for San Francisco values than working to implement Rahm Emanuel’s agenda. I know that’s tough to hear, and it’s kind of tough to say as well. As I leave San Francisco for Portland (look out, David Wu, here I come to Oregon’s First!) I want to leave you with one message, Madame Speaker: please consider this modest proposal.
The Constitution does not require that the Speaker of the House be a Member. I strongly believe that every Congressional District deserves real representation. San Francisco deserves a real fighting liberal, way down on the seniority list though s/he may be. You don’t need to be our Congresswoman anymore. You hardly ever even vote, Madame Speaker. Please consider setting a precedent to ensure real representation for Congressional Districts whose representative becomes Speaker: resign your seat in Congress. Continue your Speakership but let San Francisco elect another representative, who can speak for The City. We need a congressional representative who can speak out on the issues that matter to your current constituents: end the wars, shrink the Pentagon, invest in schools and jobs, build a system to retrain workers, restore America’s manufacturing base, imagine and implement a new green American economy.
Empower all our citizens to build a better America by recognizing their fundamental worth as individuals under the equality guaranteed by our constitution.
While you work hard within the constraints put on any Speaker, to implement the agenda of the president who’s in your own party, please let San Francisco have real representation again.
San Francisco values really matter to America. The City needs a Congressperson again. Let San Franciscans elect someone who needn’t compromise on their every viewpoint for the sake of the Speakership. You can do this, Madame Speaker. Please make it so.
Finally, as I always close my letters and emails to you, more and more futile though they seem because of your dual role nowadays: Thank you for your service to San Francisco, to California, and to the United States of America.