Humphrey School News—October 11, 2016

At Humphrey School, Democratic Leader Pelosi Says She's Optimistic About Post-Election Politics

With just a month to go before Election Day, the national political debate was on display in Minnesota. U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke to a large crowd at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Tuesday morning about current political issues that impact Minnesotans—health care, immigration, and student loan debt, for example.

The event, dubbed “A Conversation with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi,” was hosted by Professor Larry Jacobs, director of the Humphrey School’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. Jacobs moderated a discussion with Pelosi and asked her questions submitted by the audience of students and community members.

Pelosi said a host of issues are on the table for action when the new Congress convenes early next year. But, she said, whether any progress actually will occur depends on whether the two parties can work together.

Political observers have noted the chances of such cooperation taking place are unclear because of the extraordinarily harsh tone of the Presidential campaign between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale told the audience the campaign is “unprecedented” in United States history. “Voters want politics to be sorted out, they want it civil, and they want us to get down to business, shaping policy that the country needs,” he said while introducing Pelosi. 

Pelosi has represented the San Francisco area in Congress for 28 years, and was Speaker of the House from 2007-2011 when Democrats controlled the chamber. She offered a blunt assessment of the disarray in the Republican Party, due in part to Trump’s candidacy for president, saying it’s been “hijacked” by far-right conservatives who have no interest in governing and whose stated goal is to obstruct President Obama’s initiatives.

“You should go to Congress to make your case, have the humility to listen to others’ points of view, and compromise to get things done,” she said. “In the Republican Party, that’s the fight they have now.”

Pelosi noted that the two parties found it easier to reach consensus in previous years, and recalled that she worked closely with Republican George W. Bush on immigration reform when he was in the White House.

“We have a responsibility to respect the President and find common ground,” she said. “We need consensus in as positive a way as possible.”

Pelosi confidently predicted that Clinton would be elected president in November, and said she’s optimistic that Clinton and Congress will be able to find that common ground.

Her main message for the many students in the audience was to be optimistic, and to get involved in public service.

“The future is yours; take responsibility for it,” Pelosi said, and encouraged them to consider running for office. “It is not for the faint of heart, but it is absolutely necessary.”

Humphrey School Dean Eric Schwartz thanked Pelosi for visiting the school, noting its role as a center for discussion on critical issues of the day.

“We welcome discussion with public figures from the broadest array of political perspectives,” he said,  adding with a laugh that he will ask Pelosi to help the school attract Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan for a visit in the future.  

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