In Berkeley, House Speaker Pelosi warns of urgent threats to American democracy

In Berkeley, House Speaker Pelosi warns of urgent threats to American democracy

In Berkeley, House Speaker Pelosi warns of urgent threats to American democracy

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned of “the urgency of the assault on our democracy now” during Senator Barbara Boxer’s 2022 lecture at UC Berkeley. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday issued an urgent warning about threats to democracy posed by Republican Party leaders and urged moderate Republicans to take over the party and return to an earlier era of two-party government.

During Senator Barbara Boxer’s annual lecture at UC Berkeley, Pelosi barely mentioned former US President Donald Trump by name, but she sharply criticized the Republican leader and other members of the rising right-wing movement . They eroded the right to vote and undermined the nation’s shared democratic values, Pelosi said, with policies she described as authoritarian and autocratic.

“I hope there are Republicans here, so I can tell you: take back your party. The country needs a strong Republican Party, not a cult-hijacked Republican Party,” she told the audience. “It’s not about partisanship,” she added, “…it’s about patriotism for our country, to make sure the people who run for office are there to protect our democracy. .”

The annual Boxer Conference was first held in 2017 and focuses on women in leadership positions. It is sponsored by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Bancroft Library.

Pelosi linked efforts to defend American democracy to the growing challenges facing democratic countries around the world, including Ukraine as it defends itself against unprovoked Russian aggression.

Ukrainians are fighting for their democracy,” she said, “but in their fight they are fighting for democracy for everyone. It’s a fight against autocracy, and we all owe them a lot. While they’re fighting this war, we have to fight it here – and of course elections are one way to do that.

The Boxer Conference, first held in 2017, focuses on women in leadership positions. The annual event is sponsored by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Bancroft Library.

Boxer served 10 years in the United States House and 24 years in the Senate before retiring in 2017, building a strong record as an advocate for children, families, voting rights and the environment.

Pelosi is one of the most powerful and influential – if not the most powerful – women in United States political history. In nearly 35 years of representing San Francisco in the U.S. House of Representatives, she was the leader of the Democratic Party in the House for 19 years, serving as Speaker from 2007 to 2011 and again since 2019, while serving as Minority Leader in the intervening years. when the Democrats were in the minority. She was the first woman in history to hold these leadership positions.

Introducing the speakers, Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ detailed their historic accomplishments over several decades. “There are no better examples of the transformative power of women in leadership than Speaker Pelosi and the Honorable Senator Barbara Boxer,” Christ said. An admiring audience of about 500 at Hertz Hall included U.S. Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Regent John Pérez of the University of California.

Perched on the edge of her chair, animated and often gesticulating forcefully, Pelosi described her childhood, her close relationship with Boxer, her past positive working relationships with Republican lawmakers and the recent erosion of American democracy. She was by turns passionate, outspoken and full of humour.

An assault on democracy, fomented by the former president

She offered a detailed description of how a right-wing mob assault on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 attempted to block Trump’s peaceful transfer of power to his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, wearing a brown and black suit, gestures as she makes remarks during the Boxer 2022 conference.

Former US Senator Barbara Boxer has said her longtime Democratic colleague Nancy Pelosi may have saved US democracy by pushing for certification of President Joe Biden’s victory immediately after a violent right-wing mob attempted to block the transfer of power on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

“I’m telling you,” Pelosi said, “it had all the downsides: there was racism, there was sexism, there was anti-Semitism…. The things they said, the things they they were doing – again, the assault was against our democracy – at the instigation of the President of the United States.

Once members of Congress were taken to a safe place, they worked to determine next steps. Despite some suggestions that Congress postpone final certification of the election, Pelosi and others have insisted on completing the process without delay.

“Here’s the question I have that I think not many people think about,” Boxer said. “A miracle has happened, because you have ensured that the certification of the presidential election continues. … It’s my theory that if you hadn’t done that, I don’t know where we would be today.

“It saved democracy.”

Pelosi credited other members of Congress for being “very brave” in the decision to complete certification after the insurgency was suppressed. But even then, she noted, a substantial bloc of Republicans — eight senators and 139 representatives — voted to reject the election results.

“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s one thing that gangs, whatever you want to call them, come there, at the instigation of the President of the United States. It’s another thing for members of Congress to vote against the peaceful transfer of power.

Make the political process “healthier for our country”

During the 50-Minute interview, Pelosi touched on other issues:

The role of news media in a democracy. “One of the things the former occasional occupant of the White House would do is undermine the freedom of the press. In my opinion, the freedom of the press is the guardian of our democracy,” Pelosi said, but Trump and others worked “to undermine the credibility of the press and undermine the credibility of government institutions.

“It was really very clever – it was very authoritarian, autocratic. But it was a plan and they went that route and they had some success in undermining the collective consciousness of our country, which we are all about. agreement that some things are right.

United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) and former United States Senator Barbara Boxer sit in front of a blue and gold UC Berkeley backdrop during the 2022 Boxer Conference

Former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (right) interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for 50 minutes, covering issues ranging from the right to vote and freedom of the press to the essential role of women in American politics. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Voting rights legislation pending in Congress. A historic measure to protect and expand the right to vote has enough votes to pass in the House, but it lacks the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Pelosi suggested that was essential.

“He’s a protector of our democracy,” she said. “It’s about stopping the suppression of voting and the cancellation of elections.” Additionally, she explained, it would end the partisan process of selecting congressional districts. “It may or may not help us win more Democratic seats,” she said, “but it will make the process healthier for our country.”

Opportunities for women in politics. Pelosi described her early work as a grassroots political organizer, never expecting to run for office or rise to national leadership. “And then the opportunity came,” she said. “So I say to the women here: you never know when the opportunity will present itself. Be ready – be ready, take stock of yourself… be confident in who you are.

Pelosi conceded that she had limited hope that today’s Republican Party could turn the tide and return to a more conventional, bipartisan role in American politics. Some moderate Republicans told him that they could not defeat the most extreme GOP candidates in the primary election and that the Democrats would have to prevail in order for extremism to be defeated and moderate Republicans to return to power.

“We don’t put ourselves in the category of people like our founders or Lincoln, but we recognize the urgency of the assault on our democracy now,” Pelosi said. Still, she offered a note of optimism: Change is possible, she said, “because I believe in the American people, and in their goodness…and in the beauty of the diversity of the American people.”

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