Bankole: Conyers saga exposes Pelosi leadership deficit

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Democrats have a leadership problem. And as long as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues to serve at the helm, their chances of registering any meaningful victories will continue to diminish.

Pelosi’s latest test of leadership and her ability to manage her Democratic caucus in a time of crisis arrived with the sexual allegations facing U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr.

Instead of demonstrating consistency in her words and actions regarding the accusations facing Conyers, Pelosi flip-flopped so much on the issue that it is hard to believe what she will say or do next.

The Democratic leader went from calling Conyers an icon on national television and someone who deserves due process (alluding to the congressional ethics investigation) to saying she believes his accusers and then called on the congressman to resign. All of this happened in one week.

The Pelosi who appeared Nov. 26 on NBC’s “Meet the Press” defending Conyers’ right to due process was markedly different from the Pelosi who days later didn’t seem to care any longer about due process. She was not deferring to the ethics investigation any more.

According to Pelosi, it was time for Conyers to go. Other Democrats soon followed her playbook, making the same call, including some members of the Michigan congressional delegation.

It seems as if Pelosi’s positions were solely based on how the wind was blowing at any given time, not on any concrete set of principles or the time-tested systems that are in place to handle these kinds of allegations.

Leadership takes courage. It requires taking action that sometimes may not be popular. But Pelosi seems to be taking the politically expedient route.

As leader of the House Democrats, one would expect Pelosi to exercise restraint, keep an open mind and explore all ideas and possibilities regarding a dire situation — as the Conyers case demands — before jumping to self-promoting conclusions.

What Pelosi has done is basically cloud any findings of the congressional ethics investigation.

What message does that send to other colleagues who could be in a similar situation as Conyers in the future?

And if swift resignation is Pelosi’s new way to deal with such allegations, instead of the formal congressional inquiry, will she — as the highest ranking female in Congress — call on U.S. Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat, to resign?

Does she believe Franken’s accusers?

Calling on Conyers to resign is one thing. But when the House Democratic leader takes an initial position anchored on due process and then goes against that position in less than seven days — without waiting for and alluding to the outcome of a formal probe — it amounts to a mockery of the system.

Under our system, Pelosi, the legislative leader, should be a guardian of the democratic process, particularly in light of the legislative branch’s role in the U.S. government. She is expected to ensure that laws are evenly applied as well as protect the fundamental rights of everyone accused until his or her case is adjudicated.

But her rush to judgment in the Conyers case renders her as having no moral standing to lecture anyone in Washington, including President Donald Trump, on the dictates of due process and the rule of law.

Having presided over the dwindling fortunes of Democrats in recent years, she should set an example by resigning immediately as House minority leader. Then maybe a new leader will help Democrats win and win big again.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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