Nancy Pelosi is the woman in the Democratic Party whom Republicans love to hate. As we observed two years ago when we suggested she step down as her party's leader in the House, she has aroused "a visceral dislike in her critics that goes beyond the fact that her job has been to push an agenda that affronts conservatives."
Ms. Pelosi, who in 2010 was coming off a disastrous midterm election that cost Democrats the majority in the House, decided to stay on. Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Ms. Pelosi, House Democratic leader for 10 years, was considering giving up the role now that her caucus has suffered its second disappointing election in a row.
On Wednesday, she announced that she would remain as leader. That is a mistake. While President Barack Obama was being re-elected, Democrats gained only a modest seven seats in the House, although not all races are finalized, leaving Republicans firmly in charge.
Two years on, nothing much has changed except Ms. Pelosi's age. She is now 72. Despite the caricatures of her, she is what she always was -- a dedicated, smart and attractive politician who made history as the first female speaker. Her biggest problem is simply coming from San Francisco, which conservatives use against her as a stereotype suggesting wacky liberal excess. Unfair or not, voters in America's heartland aren't going to rejoice over her decision.
But it would be best for the Democratic Party if a clean break were made from the past.
To do that would require someone younger to replace her, and as The Post story points out, the potential successors are in their 70s -- Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, 73, of Maryland and Rep. James E. Clyburn, 72, of South Carolina. In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid will soon be 73, and he should be thinking of handing over the reins, too.
By contrast, Republican House Speaker John Boehner will turn 63 on Saturday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor is 49 and budget chairman Paul Ryan, the vice presidential nominee, returns to the House at 42.
The Democrats have had success in appealing to young people at the polls, which is even more reason for believing that its leadership can't afford to be geriatric for much longer.