On Monday evening Nancy Pelosi spoke to a packed debating chamber and disclosed that she was “hoping and praying” Hillary Clinton would decide to run for the presidency in 2016.
Pelosi, 73, told students that she harboured not White House ambitions herself. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pelosi was widely credited with the legislative success of the Affordable Care Act, informally known as ‘Obamacare’. Since the Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, Pelosi’s official title has been House Minority Leader, but she remains one of the most influential politicians in Congress.
The evening took the format of a prepared talk followed by a question and answer session. Rights were a recurring theme, with mention of immigration, lobbying, education and the increasing role of money in American politics. She was also keen to stress that her Caucus was what she called “the most diverse in the history of civilization” due to its ethnic and gender diversity.
Like her Republican rival John McCain, the other political heavyweight from the United States to visit the Oxford society this year, Pelosi repeatedly emphasised her support for gun control, pertinent in the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings and Newtown massacre.
Mentioning the Citizens United v FEC (Federal Election Commission), a landmark US Supreme Court case heard in 2010 which controversially ruled that free speech encompassed unlimited political campaigning donations, Leader Pelosi suggested that the lack of firearm regulation was due to politicians “living in fear” of organisations like the National Rifle Association, which she insisted have a large political influence on the congressmen and women who receive their donations.
She repeated several times, “What’s more important, my political life, or saving people’s lives?”
Several students compared the presentations of the Democratic Leader Pelosi and Republican Senator John McCain in the question and answer session, with Henry Zeffman, a first year PPE-ist from Brasenose quipped, “Last term we heard from John McCain. I can safely assure you that each of you has made sure that everybody in Oxford is a Democrat”.
Pelosi claimed that President Obama is attempting to bridge the divide between the two main American parties, despite co-operation efforts so far being unfruitful. Her frustration with the gridlock that currently characterises American politics was evident, as she suggested that the recently enacted sequester (swathes of arbitrary government spending cuts) is viewed as a “home run” by some Republican Congressmen.
Zeffman summarised the student reaction afterwards: “It was truly inspiring to hear such a transformative leader speak. She laughed at my (rubbish) joke and I’m pretty sure she winked at me on the way out. I will die happy.”