Pelosi pledged, before 3,400 delegates at the Moscone Convention Center, to expose “the full extent of the president’s wrongdoing and corruption.” But as she stressed how the investigation will proceed under ordinary legislative channels, through six different House committees, the speaker was greeted with shouts of “Impeach! Impeach!” Some in the audience also waved placards bearing the same message.
“This is like coming home for me,” she joked.
The cheers began again, however, when she suggested that the door to impeachment has not been entirely shut: “We will go where the facts lead us. We will insist on the truth. We will build on an ironclad case to act, because in the United States of America, no one is above the law — not even the President of the United States — and President Trump will be held accountable for his actions."
The affection for and loyalty to the speaker is deep here. Pelosi served as party chairwoman back in the 1980s, during the Reagan era, when California Democrats were at a low ebb, and was a driving force in restoring it to what is now a dominant force. Most Democrats have not lost their faith in her skills and her instincts.
“I’m very disappointed, but I know she is playing a long game,” Sheila Riley, a delegate from Riverside, told me. “I have a theory she’s waiting for a groundswell to tell her the time is right.”
Still, patience is wearing thin — particularly after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III finally spoke last week, and made it clear he is tossing to Congress the question of what to do with the evidence that he compiled. “We are very proud of her,” said San Francisco Democratic Party Chairman David Campos. But he noted: “Even people who are not necessarily hardcore Democrats are saying we have to at least begin an inquiry.”
No fewer than 14 Democratic presidential candidates will be speaking here before the convention this weekend, a reflection of California’s increased influence in the nominating process.
The state has a giant trove of more than 400 delegates, to be allocated proportionally among those who do well here. But it has traditionally voted so late in the process that the results are irrelevant. Next year, the primary will be held on March 3, with early voting beginning the day of the Iowa caucuses that traditionally launch the contest.
The first up among them was the state’s own senator Kamala D. Harris. The crowd erupted when she declared: "We need to begin impeachment proceedings and we need a new commander in chief!”
Pelosi is operating on a different rhythm, one driven as much by her desire to hold on to the House majority that Democrats won back last year, largely because of their performance in districts that lean more moderate than the liberal base. Seven of those pickups were here in California.
“We will strive as we go forward in this important constitutional action to unify our country and not divide as we protect and defend," she said. "The times have found us.” The question now is who will dictate how Democrats respond to this moment — Pelosi, or the increasingly restive forces within her party.