November 5th, 2010
05:41 PM ET
12 years ago

Who Is Pelosi's role model?

Washington (CNN) - Nancy Pelosi's decision to try and remain leader of the House Democrats after a disastrous showing in Tuesday's election may have defied some conventional wisdom, but it is not without precedent. In fact, Pelosi is hoping to emulate one of the most powerful House Speakers in American history: Sam Rayburn.

Rayburn, a Texas Democrat, became Speaker of the House in 1940 and remained in that role until the mid-term election of 1946, when an angry electorate gave Republicans the majority. That election, a referendum on the policies of Democratic President Harry Truman, resulted in a loss of 46 seats for the Democrats and the loss of the Speaker's chair for Rayburn.

Instead of bowing out of his party's leadership or even Congress itself, Rayburn was determined to stay in power and did so by becoming Minority Leader in the 80th Congress from 1947-1948.

Truman and the Republicans disagreed on most policy initiatives during those two years, leading to most of his legislative agenda stalling in Congress. And out of this political struggle Truman passionately tagged the majority Republicans as the "Do Nothing Congress."

The presidential election of 1948 revived Democrats' fortunes, giving Truman a second term and returning House Democrats to the majority with a sizeable increase of 75 seats.

Democrats remained in control for another four years until they lost during the election of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Despite losing 22 seats and the majority, Rayburn yet again remained Democratic leader.

And as happened before, the 1954 election swept out the Republicans, ushered back the Democrats and reunited Rayburn with the title he so craved.

It was during his third term as Speaker that Rayburn helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

Rayburn went on to serve as Speaker for another six years.

Filed under: 2010 • Democrats • Nancy Pelosi
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Bob in PA

    I don't know but someone ought to tell her that the 'House' landed on her sister and John Boehner has those pretty red slippers now.

    November 5, 2010 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  2. cj

    Her role model has to be the wicked witch of the west

    November 5, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  3. Gale

    Oh, I thought it was the wicked witch of the west!!

    November 5, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  4. T'SAH from Virginia

    She is a STRONG woman which is a THREAT to most! She's NOT a Sarah Palin, O'Donnell, Angle or a Bachmann – they are AIRHEADS!!!

    Hang in there Nancy!!

    This is T'SAH – OUT of Campaign MODE – N2 MOVING AMERICA FORWARD!!!

    November 5, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  5. Monster Zero

    Rayburn, a Texas Democrat, became Speaker of the House in 1940 and remained in that role until the mid-term election of 1946, when an angry electorate gave Republicans the majority.

    Doesn't that 1946 Democrat shellacking coincide with one of the greatest expansions of our economy, must be a coincidence...

    November 5, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  6. S. In California

    Finally, a woman worth watching. Why you ask:

    1) Ran on a democratic ticket and acted accordingly;
    2) Fights for our president's policies;
    3) Is not afraid of the OLD white man's club;
    4) Can handle criticism/childish name calling;
    5) Knows how to take a licking and keep on ticking;
    6) Fights for the average Joe or Jane;
    7) Stays TRUE to herself;
    8) Does not SELL OUT her party for the sake of votes;
    9) Is educated; and
    10) Gets the right wing NUTS and tea baggers foaming at the mouth.

    People DON'T BE FOOLED the reason she is hated so much is because she IS EFFECTIVE. The repubs. want you to think she will bring them an election on a silver platter. NOTHING could be further from the truth. Don't you see no matter who the democrats put in her role THEY WOULD ATTACK including, your mother's. Don't fall for their games. They fear her because SHE'S TOUGH just WHAT we need right now.

    I say KUDOS Madame Speaker!

    November 5, 2010 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. AZ DEM

    Pelosi is actually doing the democrats a service by attempting to lead the Democrats in the minority of the House she represents the progressive caucas of the Democratic party and I have THE UTMOST respect for her because she voted based on her principles and didn't apologize for them because it was HER VOTE and HER BELIEFS. That to me is something missing from the Democratic party and keeping Pelosi in the public view will keep the far left engaged and enraged come 2012....remember it was THIS GROUP that helped organize the grassroots campaign for 2008 and I GUARANTEE you they will be ready to do the same for Obama in 2012

    November 5, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  8. MikeB59

    She's no Sam Rayburn.

    November 5, 2010 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  9. karen

    Not good for 2012!! So Pelosi please saty!! We can use all the help we can get. You proved to be an asset to all of us republicans!!! LOL

    November 5, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  10. ken

    I think she should remian speaker, she's not afraid of Rush, faux news, or the GOP like some Dems are.

    November 5, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  11. the real ib

    The democrats are stupid if they put her back in any kind of a leadership role. She is one reason I voted a straight line republican ticket this year. I voted against a democrat that I have voted for several times in the past. Pelosi just doesn't get it the demo's lost big time in a large part to her. If they put her back in another leading role the same thing will happen again in 2012.

    November 5, 2010 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  12. DriftSS

    Get real! Pelosi's real role models are Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein. She needs to be a dictator somewhere where it doesn't matter that she is totally out of touch with her constituents and reality! Let her denounce her citizenship and ship her to Somalia or the Middle East where she can have the power she wants and needs.

    November 5, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  13. Peggy - TX

    That is just silly. Nancy Polisi is not Rayburn and this is not the 1950s. Yes, Nancy has been demonized by the Republicans. It is called politics and she is inept at it. She did not help her image with her ear-to-ear grin sitting behind President Obama for the first state of the Union, she simply looked childish. She comes across as a California Liberal and she does not inspire confidence. Rather then pull-in in the extreme lefties, she weakly feeds their delusions and their discontent. She is an encumbrance to the Democratic party and to President Obama, who is much more moderate and thus much more aligned with the majority of Americans.

    November 5, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  14. gg

    I would say yes!..yes!..yes! let Pelosi remain as a leader of the house very smart move by democrats!

    November 5, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  15. Danny Cali

    Nancy, good for remain a leader do not getup with those stupid Republican't said, please stay strong for Americans at the end your the one going to win for this Country again.

    November 5, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. Sue

    I find Nancy Pelosi to exude class, education and at least intelligent. Unlike grifter Sarah Palin who has to earn her keep
    by being a carnival barker for trickery of the Republicans by selling poisoned tea. At least Nancy is qualified to hold a position on the INSIDE of the capitol and doesn't earn her keep as a traveling snake oil salesman. Nancy is also not a quitter. Unlike the half-term oddity, Palin. I would take Nancy any day over John "come on in said the spider to the fly" Boehner .

    November 5, 2010 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  17. A True Centrist

    we independents sent you a message on Tuesday. If Pelosi is still in a position of power within the party, you obviously didn't hear us and the worst is yet to come. I know I'm not alone in this...I've said it before, we voted against the Dem agenda on Tuesday, not for the Republicans so change course while you still can.

    November 5, 2010 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  18. Bill

    Why question Pelosi's decision to try to retain her leadership job? Neither Mitch McConnell nor John Boehner gave up their posts when the GOP got clobbered in 2008. They came back to fight. If anyone should have lost his job Tuesday, it should have been Harry Reid, who let legislation stall in the Senate and allowed all the wheeling and dealing to air in public.

    November 5, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  19. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Who was Nancy's role model? Maybe Michelle Bachelet, the socialist President of Chile until last March when the Chileans discovered she had about as much economic sense as any other socialist.

    November 5, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  20. George of the jungle

    so what is the big deal if she runs. If she looses will she ry like orangeman? I bet if he looses he will cry.

    November 5, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  21. jules sand-perkins

    Sam Rayburn may, in fact, be Pelosi's role model. That would mean that I had not thought probingly enough about her deepest motivations.
    Before reading CNN's informative article, I had imagined Pelosi's role model to be a cross between Greta Garbo (the face) and Marie Antoinette (the plane).

    November 5, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  22. Bill

    wait let me guess.... she rides a broom and melts when she gets wet..... besides the private jet is much more comfortable than a broom. BTW Truman would have told her to take her commie policies elswhere.

    November 5, 2010 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  23. yup

    I thought it was Joseph Stalin.

    November 5, 2010 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  24. New Age Independant

    If liberals are as stupid as I think they are, Pelosi will become Minority Leader, and consequently will ruin any chances of a comeback for the Democrat party. It's a shame that extremest liberals have taken over the party and destroyed it's creditability.

    November 6, 2010 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  25. dwayne

    Christian Republicans majority in house; where are the jobs; deficit increases why? Is god’s Christian tea party dead?

    November 6, 2010 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
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