As we barrel through the remainder of the summer, the once – and possibly future – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is back in the news. Since it’s an election year, Republicans are using her as a cudgel with which to criticize Democratic congressional candidates, including here in Maine.

Her supporters say it’s because she’s a woman, but Republicans are concerned that she represents the far left, both in her caucus and directly as a member of Congress.

Her district is one of the most solidly Democratic districts in the nation. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, California’s 12th Congressional District is 37 points more Democratic than the national average; Trump got less than 10 percent of the vote. In contrast, Paul Ryan’s district is only 5 points more Republican than the national average, and Trump got just 53 percent of the vote.

Setting aside their personal politics, Ryan’s district is far closer to the national average than Pelosi’s. That, of course, has always been the case throughout her tenure in leadership.

The difference this year is that more and more Democrats are starting to sour on Pelosi, both in Congress and among the general public. That’s led a number of Democrats running for Congress all over the country (including Jared Golden in Maine’s 2nd District) to declare that they won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker if they end up in the majority.

The problem with that pledge is that it’s a largely empty, symbolic one. Democratic candidates may say they won’t vote for Pelosi, but unless the caucus nominates someone else for the position, their votes against Pelosi are unlikely to be anything more than meaningless protest votes.

So, if Democrats do regain the majority, Nancy Pelosi will probably be speaker again – unless she loses the nomination in the caucus. That’s where Democrats are right, and Republicans are wrong, about the Republican Party’s attacks on Nancy Pelosi: She doesn’t make that much of a difference.

There isn’t some secret cadre of centrist Democrats hidden away in the caucus, eager to anoint a fresh young face. It would be nice if that were the case, but moderate Democrats have increasingly been chased out of Congress – and that’s not where the energy is coming from in the party as of late. Instead, it’s coming from the left wing of the party – to wit, New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated a longtime incumbent in a primary.

If Pelosi is indeed ousted for speaker by her own caucus, it won’t be for a moderate dark horse who will steer the Democratic Party toward the middle. Instead, it will be for a member of Congress who’s probably equally politically liberal, but slightly less well-known and polarizing among the electorate.

The same can be said of recent Republican changes in leadership in Congress as well.

While hardline conservatives may have succeeded in pressuring John Boehner to step aside, he wasn’t replaced by one of their fellow hardliners. Instead, he ended up ceding leadership to Paul Ryan, a longtime member of Congress who is a fairly traditional conservative.

Now that Paul Ryan is leaving, the front-runner for the position if the Republican Party retains control seems to be Kevin McCarthy of California, the current majority leader.

Though there might not be many political differences between Pelosi and potential Democratic challengers, there’s a world of difference between Pelosi and McCarthy.

That’s why it’s fair to continually ask independents running for Congress who they’d support for speaker: It is both the first, and perhaps the most important, vote that they will take on the floor.

The reality is that the U.S. Congress is organized around the two major parties, and that’s not going to change any time soon – no matter how many independents Maine sends to Washington.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel

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