Karen Bass for Speaker of the House

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

I’m not a Democrat. But with the Republican Party turned Trumpian, I find myself having to root for the Democrats to win.
Is this what it feels like to be a Mets fan?

This brings me to Nancy Pelosi’s foolish effort to install herself again as speaker of the house. I don’t want to rehash all the arguments that Pelosi and her many fans make for her. Because this isn’t really about her.

It’s about the republic.

Pelosi is a polarizing figure not just in the country, but among Democrats. Her fight for leadership could split the anti-Trump coalition. And what the country needs is to hold the anti-Trump coalition together, so that the country can get rid of Trump as fast as possible.

If Pelosi were acting in the public interest, she would be trying to broker a deal to pick a new speaker. And she would be working to serve as a more behind-the-scenes figure, both legislatively and in fundraising.

Who might be a unifying figure, and the right face for the party?

I’d suggest another Californian, Karen Bass.

Bass is liberal enough to satisfy the party’s Sandersistas. She has been a Pelsoi ally. And she is a very practical politician with a moderate temperament that should appeal to centrists. Bottom line: Democrats of all kinds would embrace her.

She also has experience as a speaker. She was a good Assembly speaker during some of California’s toughest moments during the Great Recession. She has a very moving and powerful personal story, and she is expert in a vitally important issue—foster children and foster parents—that can attract very broad support.

She also comes out of South L.A., and is a key figure in the turnaround of that very important American place. She founded Community Coalition, which really represents what the Democratic party should be: a very diverse effort to raise up all kinds of people and to combine work on many different issues into one community-centered force. Her story truly matches the moment and today’s challenges.

The objection to Bass will be that she doesn’t have Pelosi’s name recognition or TV wattage. But that’s kind of the point. Bass would be a hard person to turn into a polarizing figure. She’s a very nice person (I met her both as a reporter and a constituent of hers, when she was in the Assembly). She’s not rich. She’s not holier than thou. She’s not from San Francisco.

I also think Bass would unnerve Trump, and bring out his racism and bigotry in a way that would be helpful to Democrats. Let’s be blunt: Trump falls to pieces and betrays his awfulness every time he has to deal with an African American woman.

So Bass represents the Democrats at their best, and will make Trump look his worst. That’s why she should be the next speaker.

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