Julian Zelizer: Pelosi Emerges as Powerhouse in D.C.





[Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. His new book is "Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security: From World War II to the War on Terrorism," published by Basic Books. Zelizer writes widely about current events.]

The passage of health care will certainly rank as one of the major political achievements of recent decades.

Legislation that will eventually extend health care coverage to more than 30 million more Americans, greatly expand the number of options that citizens have when purchasing health care, bring healthy citizens into the pool of the insured and thus lower costs and create important regulations on health care companies will be remembered as one of the biggest domestic policy changes since the Great Society of the 1960s.

While most attention will focus on President Obama for pulling off a Herculean task that eluded many of our great presidents, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges from this battle as the real powerhouse in Washington....

From the start of Obama's presidency, Pelosi has argued that Democrats should focus on maintaining partisan unity rather than on achieving bipartisan coalitions. She has implored her colleagues to act with confidence rather than out of fear. Her goal has always been to find ways to keep Democrats together rather than bringing Republicans on board.

In an era where partisan polarization makes true bipartisanship impossible, this is the most effective and realistic approach for Democrats....

Rather than the cartoonish caricature that Republicans often use of Pelosi as a left coast, left-wing fanatic, she is something much more powerful -- and threatening to their party.

When Kennedy died, many Democrats wondered who would take his place as the party's deal-maker. Now they have their answer.

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