Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics

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When the Democrats retook control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2007 after twelve years in the wilderness, Nancy Pelosi became the first woman speaker in American history.

In Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics, Ron Peters, one of America's leading scholars of Congress, and Cindy Simon Rosenthal, one of America's leading scholars on women and political leadership, provide a comprehensive account of how Pelosi became speaker and what this tells us about Congress in the twenty-first century. They consider the key issues that Pelosi's rise presents for American politics, highlight the core themes that have shaped, and continue to shape, her remarkable caree, and discuss the challenges that women face in the male-dominated world of American politics, particularly at its highest levels. The authors also shed light on Pelosi's political background: first as the scion of a powerful Baltimore political family whose power base lay in East Coast urban ethnic politics, and later as a successful politician in what is probably the most liberal city in the country, San Francisco. Peters and Rosenthal trace how she built her base within the House Democratic Caucus and ultimately consolidated enough power to win the Speakership. They show how twelve years out of power allowed her to fashion a new image for House Democrats, and they conclude with an analysis of her institutional leadership style.

The only full-length portrait of Nancy Pelosi in print, this superb volume offers a vivid and insightful analysis of one of America's most remarkable politicians.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Anybody who really wants to understand who Pelosi is, how she attained this key post and parlayed it into extraordinary power and influence, and how she manages to operate so successfully in a boiling caldron of partisan and ideological division will come away much better informed after reading this book."--Norm Ornstein, Washington Post Book World

"Peters and Rosenthal's highly readable and entertaining book is appropriate for all audiences from general readers to congressional scholars and will be a welcome addition in undergraduate Congress courses. Summing Up: Recommended."--CHOICE

"Peters and Rosenthal provide a more comprehensive analysis of the career of Nancy Pelosi than has ever been available during a speaker's term in office. Not only does the reader learn about Pelosi's political rise, but the authors also thoroughly examine her performance in her three years as Speaker, carefully employing data to test conventional impressions. This book should be in the library of every serious student of contemporary American politics."--Bruce Oppenheimer, Professor of Public Policy and Education, Vanderbilt University

"In this insightful account of Nancy Pelosi's career, two of America's leading congressional scholars explain her remarkable rise to power to become the first woman in American history to lead the U.S. House of Representatives and how she leads the House today. The book is a major contribution to the literature on congressional leadership and is likely to be the standard for all works on Speaker Pelosi going forward. I recommend this book for anyone interested in the contemporary workings of the House of Representatives."--James A. Thurber, Distinguished University Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University

"By examining how Pelosi uses her power, designs legislative process, and provides representative leadership for her district, state, and party, the authors present a thoughtful, scholarly, and well-documented analysis of her rise to power. Recommended."--Library Journal

"Scholarly. ... The authors' expertise offers credibility to the notion that Pelosi is among the most powerful speakers ever."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Must-read. ... A lot has been written about Pelosi, yet Peters and Rosenthal compile an especially useful piece of the jigsaw puzzle that political books are busy creating. ... The book deconstructs Pelosi's fundraising tactics in explicitly direct terms and aims to paint a picture of what American politics will look like in the next few years. ... [T]he authors do a stellar job of explaining how Pelosi's advancement and subsequent dominance mark the genesis of the 'new American politics.'"--Roll Call

"This is a book that is intellectually rigorous, that would withstand scholarly examination, but that is also a captivating read for just about anyone who wonders how a political career is made and what goes on behind the scenes on Capitol Hill."--Wright on Health Blog

"[I]t is the authors careful marshaling of the facts that makes the case for Nancy Pelosi's political significance so strong, to the likely surprise of some readers."--Beyond Chron

"This book is an excellent appraisal of Pelosi as Speaker functioning in a take-no-prisoners political world. It will appeal to political scientists and informed readers of contemporary affairs."--ForeWord Reviews

"Peters and Rosenthal are correct: The woman and the moment have met."--The Hill

Library Journal
How did Nancy Pelosi overcome the gender traps that have thwarted other congresswomen to become second in line to the U.S. presidency as Speaker of the House of Representatives? Political scientists Peters and Rosenthal (both at the Carl Albert Congressional Research & Studies Ctr., Univ. of Oklahoma) believe that Pelosi's path through the congressional opportunity structure combined both traditional and novel elements. After identifying five interrelated elements of what they call the "new American politics"—partisanship, money, organization, technology, and representation—they go on to argue that Pelosi thoroughly understands these elements, and they show how she uses them to advance legislation. Pelosi's family background prepared her for her early career as a Democratic fund-raiser and party chair, and, as the authors show, she offered an innovative approach to the Democratic Party's campaign to take back control of the House of Representatives in 2006. VERDICT By examining how Pelosi uses her power, designs legislative process, and provides representative leadership for her district, state, and party, the authors present a thoughtful, scholarly, and well-documented analysis of her rise to power. Recommended for political science students and lay readers interested in the current political scene.—Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
Norm Ornstein
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not a breezy read; it has ample anecdotes that take a reader inside the personalities and intrigue in the House, but it also bolsters its points with data and political-sciency analysis. Unlike many scholars, however, the authors write clearly and have a good feel for politics. Anybody who really wants to understand who Pelosi is, how she attained this key post and parlayed it into extraordinary power and influence, and how she manages to operate so successfully in a boiling caldron of partisan and ideological division will come away much better informed after reading this book.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195383737
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/5/2010
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald M. Peters, Jr. is Regents' Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of The American Speakership: The Office in Historical Perspective.

Cindy Simon Rosenthal is Carlisle Mabrey and Lurline Mabrey Presidential Professor of Political Science and Director and Curator of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma. The author of When Women Lead, she currently serves as the mayor of Norman, Oklahoma.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgementsi
1. Madam Speaker
2. Getting There
3. Power in the House
4. Reaching Out
5. Gender
6. Leadership

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