Our Opinion: Pelosi, Democrats, must offer a positive vision

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On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi won the nomination of the House Democratic caucus to take over as speaker when newly elected members of Congress are sworn in next January (Eagle, Nov. 29). She managed to tamp down an ill-timed insurgency by some members who militated for new blood in Democratic leadership, and still faces a confirming vote by the entire House

Nonetheless, Democrats who are just beginning to flex their newfound political muscle have made a wise choice in backing a seasoned politician cognizant of the vagaries of "herding cats," as running the House of Representatives is sometimes called, and who moreover possesses a clear picture of how to create and move forward a centrist agenda.

Ms. Pelosi realizes that in the long term, what Americans crave after two years of Republican-held, undivided government is a positive, specific, workable plan that will change their lives for the better. Passionate calls for investigation of the president's actions do have their place, but Ms. Pelosi realizes that if Democrats are ever to win a majority in both houses as well as take the presidency, they will have to stand for, rather than against, something. She is the ultimate pragmatist, a successful woman and is highly skilled at what she does — all reasons she remains such a punching bag for her Republican colleagues and insecure males populating their base.

In her effort at crafting and implementing policy, she will find allies in two members of the Massachusetts delegation: Richard Neal of Springfield and Joseph Kennedy III of Newton. Rep. Neal, who is entering his 16th term as a U.S. Congressman, is poised to take the chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Ways and Means — whose jurisdiction includes taxation, trade and tariffs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid among other important matters of national concern.

Also a pragmatist, Mr. Neal favors a nuts-and-bolts approach to policy development, stressing in a statement last week that he wants to put some "quick hits on the board." Those include "enshrining" health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, thereby eliminating it forever as a political football should Republicans win back the House. He also plans to reexamine elements of the Republican-passed tax reform law, particularly the $10,000 state and local tax deduction cap that punishes middle-class residents of high-tax states like Massachusetts. He also plans to look into ways to strengthen Social Security and create tax schemes that encourage retirement savings.

If Mr. Neal is laboring down in the engine room to keep the ship moving, Rep. Kennedy is the starry-eyed navigator who will help Ms. Pelosi chart a course toward, as he said in a speech last week before the New England Council, "moral capitalism" and an end to citizens being "forced to endlessly spar over the scraps of our system." Mr. Kennedy's family-inherited eloquence will serve him well in rallying idealists to Ms. Pelosi's agenda. Inevitably, some on the left will be disappointed at its scope, but Ms. Pelosi's experience will guide her as to what is attainable versus what is desirable in a political world where the other chamber and the presidency remain in the hands of the opposition party.

Should House Democrats resist the urge to succumb to vengeful motives and instead present the American people with a real alternative to a current political and economic system that is clearly not working in their best interests, they should be well positioned for 2020. With their show of support for Nancy Pelosi as speaker, they are off to a good start.

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