Fresh from being arrested on Capitol Hill, along with 45 other activists demanding that Congress get about the business of impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney, Cindy Sheehan has determined that she can no longer count on others to stop the war in Iraq or hold a lawless administration to account.
So she has announced that she will, indeed, challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bid for reelection next year.
It is a bold gesture, rooted in the deep frustration of the nation’s most prominent anti-war activist with Pelosi’s hyper-cautious approach to her duties as both the leader of the congressional opposition to an unpopular president and as a sworn defender of the Constitution.
This is the context in which Sheehan proposes to challenge Pelosi. “At the end of this day, Speaker Pelosi has not supported impeachment and has not upheld her oath of office to ‘protect and defend’ the Constitution,” says the challenger.
Sheehan’s bid, presumably on an independent line, will be uphill all the way. Pelosi has all the advantages of incumbency — and more. Closely tied for decades to the Democratic political establishment of San Francisco, Pelosi and her campaign team know just about everything there is to know about winning elections there. And, as the Speaker of the House, she has the ability to deliver both on the practical and egotistical needs of the city by the bay. Additionally, she has the ability to raise and spend more money than any opponent.
With all of this said, however, Sheehan has standing.
It is not just that she enjoys her own prominence, and a measure of sympathy and respect, as the mother of slain soldier Casey Sheehan who turned her personal grief into a powerful call for accountability from President Bush and those who were responsible for the illegal and immoral war that claimed Casey’s life.
What makes Sheehan a potentially credible challenger is the fact that, by any reasonable measure, she is more in touch with the true passions of San Francisco’s voters than Pelosi. Pelosi is a war critic, but she has never gone to the mat on the issue. San Franciscans, on the other hand, have voted overwhelmingly for immediate withdrawal. Similarly, Pelosi says that impeachment is “off the table,” despite the fact that San Franciscans voted by a 3-2 margin last fall in favor of holding the president and vice president to account.
For Sheehan, it is Pelosi’s determination to protect Bush and Cheney from demands for accountability that tipped the balance in favor of making the race against the Speaker.