Nancy and the Gavel

I wrote a quick piece about a striking image that came out of Sunday’s health care reform vote. Around noon, Nancy Pelosi and top Democratic leaders walked from the Cannon Office Building to the House, with Pelosi carrying a rather over sized gavel. It was an impromptu gesture, by all accounts, but it sent a strong signal. She meant business.

Since Democrats retook control of the House in January 2007, the gavel hasn’t been just a symbol of the speaker’s power. It has been a particularly volatile image from the moment she was photographed receiving it from John Boehner. The outgoing Republican majority leader wasn’t just yielding power after an electoral thumping, he was yielding it to a woman, the first woman to sit only two heartbeats from the presidency. Right-wing blogs frequently use that image, often without explanation, as if it is manifestly obvious that the world is upside down if a woman from San Francisco in a tailored cabernet-colored suit is brandishing the implement.

How will this image affect public perception of the reform bill, and the politicians who worked to pass it? I touched on those questions in a Tuesday story for The Washington Post. The Note, a political links blog hosted by ABC, called it a must read. The Atlantic Wire called it a screed and mocked it unmercifully. You decide.

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