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Arc of Power: Inside Nancy Pelosi’s Speakership, 2005–2010, John A. Lawrence

Reviewed by Justin Buchler
 

Few congressional leaders have buildings named in their honor, and although former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may not receive any such accolades, her reputation among scholars as a tactician would put her among the ranks of those with such distinction. In Arc of Power: Inside Nancy Pelosi’s Speakership, 2005–2010, John A. Lawrence, a former chief of staff to Pelosi, provides legislative scholars and other historically inclined readers with a unique view of her path to the gavel and the passing of the gavel. Such a book might run the risk of hagiography, but instead, Lawrence's account, compiled with the assistance of years of notes and documentation, manages to provide something more useful. Lawrence provides a combination of two elements: context and constraint. Through context and constraint, the reader can understand Pelosi's ambition, how it was checked, how she recognized what was and was not possible, and, consequently, the strategic choices she made as bounded by timing and other institutional actors. Simultaneously derided as a figure of leftist extremism by Republican campaign strategy and criticized for selling out liberal principles by the left flank of her own party on several occasions, Lawrence explains Pelosi's speakership through context and constraint.

A simplistic view of Pelosi would begin and end with t

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