The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Look at Pelosi. Tell me again: How are women too emotional for politics?

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are seen on the screen making calls from a secure location as the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The insurrectionists were in the hallways — with poles, bear spray, crazy battle-rattle cosplay outfits with flex cuffs and body armor — and it was clear who they wanted.

“Bring her out!” one of them screamed, inside the Capitol, beneath the Rotunda. “Bring her out here! We’re coming in if you don’t bring her out.”

In the marble hallways they called for her: “Where are you, Nancy? We’re looking for you!”

“Nancy! Oh, Naaaancy.”

And during those minutes on Jan. 6, 2021, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in action. She was a battle general in taupe heels, making calls to move troops, to quell the ambush, to secure a peaceful transfer of power.

This was the scene America finally saw in the video played at the Jan. 6 select committee’s hearing Thursday.

Calm, cool and focused, Pelosi was the leader that American democracy needed that day.

Tell me again: How are women too emotional to be in charge?

If only disgraced President Richard M. Nixon could see how this steady woman — who saw the medieval scene of thousands of people outside, pushing their way in — handled it.

Nixon is a king of the “emotional” woman trope.

He considered appointing a woman to the Supreme Court in 1971 because he hoped it would get him an extra 2 percent bump in the 1972 election, according to one of the books former White House counsel John W. Dean wrote about that time. The idea repulsed Nixon, though.

“I don't think a woman should be in any government job whatever. I mean, I really don't,” Nixon said. “The reason why I do is mainly because they are erratic. And emotional. Men are erratic and emotional, too, but the point is a woman is more likely to be.”

Huh. I guess we missed all those temper tantrums and erratic emotional outbursts by Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel or the scores of other female leaders who kept it cool and reasonable and just did their jobs.

Some of the men still like to dredge the depths of their mommy-needing souls when a female leader is anything but sugar-pie sweet. Remember when Vice President Harris was called “hysterical” for her unflinching and stern prosecutorial questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a hearing in 2017?

In Nixon’s days, polling showed a lot of people — up to 55 percent, based on education level — thought women were too emotional for politics. That has changed, but not by a ton. In our newly, enlightened world — where Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for president — 13 percent of those polled still think women are less suited, emotionally, for politics. That means about 1 out of 7 people think a woman would be too emotional to do exactly what Pelosi did on Jan. 6: lead.

“There has to be some way we can maintain the sense that people have, that there’s some security, or some confidence, that government can function and that you can elect the president of the United States,” she told the folks gathered in a secure location in the Capitol building.

Meanwhile, Richard “Bigo” Barnett was carrying a stun gun and plopped himself into Pelosi’s chair, putting his feet up on her desk. He wrote her a note:

“Nancy, Bigo was here, you b----.”

Trump promised Barnett and the others that it was going to “be wild” if they came to D.C. that day. It was.

Pelosi, however, was not.

She didn’t pull a Josh Hawley (the Republican senator from Missouri caught on video doing a 11.7-second 100-meter dash from the rioters that day). She didn’t curse, scream or whine.

Forget her politics; it’s hard to watch that video played to the committee today and deny her cool head amid the chaos.

“Hi, governor, this is Nancy,” Pelosi said on the phone to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), as she went through the mechanics of getting help to the Capitol.

It became clear to her that they had been abandoned by the rest of the federal government, as Capitol Police were being pummeled outside and help did not appear to be coming.

In one part of the video, members are huddled around the phone, talking to someone who may be able to send help. But the guy is futzing around, explaining the leaders who are on the ground and yada yada yada.

Pelosi cuts in: “Well, just pretend — just pretend for a moment it was the Pentagon or the White House or some other entity that was under siege. Let me say, you can logistically get people there as you make the plan.”

And then she’s shown trying to move legislators back into session.

“We’ve gotten a very bad report about the condition of the House floor,” Pelosi said.

“There’s defecation and all that kind of thing,” said the mother of five, who knows a little something about messes.

Steadfast, she moved onward: “I don’t think that that’s hard to clean up,” she said.