Move Along, Part 2: There Really Is A Case For Replacing Nancy Pelosi. And Not With Steny Hoyer.

Yesterday, I decided to lob a grenade into the discussion of What Democrats Should Do Now, mostly because I am genuinely alarmed at the prospect that Nancy Pelosi, having presided over one of the worst electoral reversals for Democrats ever, will be rewarded with the House Minority Leadership role. Again. What's surprising to me is both that there's been a surprising amount of dead silence from many lefty blogs since the election (losing, it has to be admitted, will do that to ya), along with a surprising number - to me, anyway - of people who seem determined to accept any and every sloppy excuse for having Pelosi continue to exercise her considerable power virtually unchecked.

Here, then, are still more ways to make the case that someone other than Nancy Pelosi whould be leading the House Democrats. And, while we're at it, let's look at why the acsension of Steny Hoyer would be as bad, or worse.

  1. We shouldn't reward failure. Even if one buys the "she was demonized" or "the failures of the past two years have to do with the Senate" (both of which, really, deserve a full discussion, with considerable rebuttal), let's be clear: the House Democrats offered as little, or less, than the Republicans who ran against them. If Republicans failed to nationalize this election around a positive agenda, Democrats didn't even try; long before the election was in earnest, Democrats ran immediately to painting the GOP as extreme, scary, and not to be trusted. That may be true - I think it's a bit broad brush, however accurate in specific cases - but that campaign was no substitute for the fact that the Democratic establishment had nothing to offer to deal with the current hard times. Foreclosures? Anyone? How about job creation? Tax policy? Moreover, most Democrats, even Pelosi, tended to run away from their "accomplishments" of the past legislative session rather than run on them, a tacit admission that something, really, hadn't worked. It's one thing for some liberals to insist, patronizingly, that voters "just didn't get it" or "our accomplishments weren't explained well". It's another for Pelosi to blame, continually and consistently, that Republicans have drowned out the good news about the work of House Democrats. There was a lot o explaining... and still people were not happy with what Democrats have done. An unpopular agenda, enormous election losses... just how many mess-ups is one person entitled to before their leadership gets called into question?
  2. No one person is irreplaceable. Nancy Pelosi is 70. She has been in the House for more than 20 years. How much longer, really, can this go on (even if she is in a House seat for life)? Thanks to John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, Democrats are often way to enamored of the "great person" theory of political leadership (odd, since, much of that "great man" theory is used to justify white male patriarchy, but never mind)., wich tends to encourage stasis over experimentation. Sticking with Pelosi because she can "lead us back to a majority" is just short-sighted. In 4-6 years, she'll be in her mid-seventies, and the pressures to bring in some fresh voices will only be more acute. Why wait?
  3. Change is good, and long overdue. Say what you will about the incoming Republican leadership team, but face this: it's a young team, full of fresh faces. The leadership roles of people like Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan are almost unthinkable within the current Democratic leadership structure, with people whose first elections to the House go back to the Nixon Administration, and beyond. For a party that prides itself on being more open to new ideas and experimentation, our party's leadership in Congress is anything but. We expect to attract younger voters, and more voters of color... yet our leadership is overwhelmingly white, male, and not particularly representative of the ideas or energy of the youth of today... or even, say, folks in their thirties. This is not a case against age or experience... but there is a point where "age and experience" are simply excuses to perpetuate a status quo, not an indication of excellence. This, too, is why Steny Hoyer - himself a veteran of some 20+years - is no real solution as the next Minority Leader. I love the Maryland delegation as much as the next former Marylander, but Hoyer is a prime example of that state's equally tired machine politics, and ought to be, at best, temporary step towards newer, fresher faces, voices, and ideas.
  4. This isn't about "Blue Dogs" or "Who is more liberal". The last four years of majority control have laid bare familiar tensions within the Party, with little real resolution (or productive discussion, for that matter). Much is being made of the fact that the majority of losses were among more conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats, leaving a more liberal minority; perhaps... but the broader lesson is that the election swept out many recent arrivals to the House, from the classes of 2006 and 2008, leaving behind familiar veterans in especially safe seats. They are not, as a group, necessarily more "liberal" or "progressive" - indeed, it's under the leadership of some of these most senior members that "progressive" ideas and new approaches to old problems have been ignored or traded away.  If we don't encourage some sense of reordering within the House leadership, giving a chance and a voice to newer faces, progressive activists will really be no closer to achieving long term goals. And the alternative - some sort of ideological purification like the conservatives have exerted on the GOP - is just not doable.
  5. Losing means it's just time to move on. Symbolically, there's just no indication that anyone learned anything in keeping Pelosi as House Democratic leader. Liberals and progressives and all Democrats need to realize and accept the lessons of this election: We lost. This was a serious repudiation of our work and our ideas, and we need to accept the loss, make changes and grow in a new direction. For four years, Republicans have flailed about, refusing to accept loss after loss after loss after rejection by the national electorate. Now, riding the tails of anger and resentment, they have cobbled together familiar elements of their old coalition which will liely split at the seams the minute they begin to attempt to exercise power in any direction. Their failure is built into the elements of their victory. But Democrats will squander the opportunity to make a fresh case for renewed majorities in 2012 and beyond presenting the same, familiar face and exercise power embodied in the leadership of Nancy Pelosi. New leadership, different voices, fresh ideas... these are the ways to return from loss. And the best place to start is with someone other than  Nancy Pelosi - or other senior members of her leadership team -leading the House Democrats.

Criticizing Nancy Pelosi, her leadership, or her record, is not automatically anti-woman or antifeminist; it's unfortunate that reasonable criticisms of Pelosi, irrespective of the historic position she's held as the first woman in her role, have been tangled up in harsh, unnecessary and ugly sentiments about her, especially from the right. It is, indeed, a remarkable, historic and valuable achievement that Nanacy Pelosi made, rising to the Speaker's role. We should honor her service, thank her for all the hard work, and appreciate the achievements she made through her leadership. But that period is over, and this last election shows that new leadership is warranted and changes need to be made. It's time. Let's move along.

Originally posted at my blog www.nycweboy.com

 

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Comments

6 Comments

GOOD DIARY

 I heartedy agree but whats the trouble with Steny Joyer?

He surely never was part of Pelosi's "team".

She loathes the man and tried to have him removed from his position and replaced with Murtha.

Hes loved by unions, does good TV and would help bring the caucus together.

Who would be a better choice?

(Personally, Im only interested in a leader that is very, very pro labor)

by changeagain2012 2010-11-05 12:59PM | 0 recs
RE: Pro-labor and more

I have to admit I'm coming up blank on great aletrnatives. Which, as I say above is why I think "Steny Hoyer... ought to be, at best, temporary step towards newer, fresher faces, voices, and ideas." In the short run, he'll make a fine transitional figure, but I'm hoping someone is looking to develop newer, younger talent.

I tend to agree that it's vital to have Democratic leaders who are pro-worker... but I think the problems we have, and the institutional level changes we need mean that we need someone who can both stand up to the Unions where needed as well as pursue the kind of policies that help and protect workers and working class people. Relying on unions, when they represent about 10% of all workers, is one of the things that I think helped get us where we are and one reason why disaffected voters feel no one is speaking for them. I think there's a lot of romance for older eras of Democratic Party dominance when union households were a large constituency and reflected the presence of recent immigrants and the aspirations of the working class. That's just not entirely the world we live in now, and when we look to Democrats to speak for the working class, and immigrants, it's got to be different and about more than unions.

by nycweboy1 2010-11-05 04:12PM | 0 recs
RE: Pro-labor and more

Steny Hoyers middle of maryland attitude was made for this upcoming cycle.

im for union involvement not just because im a believer in unions but even more because the union world is where the real smart political thinkers and professional activists all are.  thats the real base of most democratic win.

pelosi's arrogance and face saving move is the very worst thing that could have happened to democrats nationwide and obama in particular.

id bet that this idiocy opens up a wide whole for a real democratic challenge against obama from evan bayh who still has 3 million bucks socked away that he can spend on a challenge.

the idea that there is no place for him in the mix is ridiculous with fully half of dems wanting a challenge to obama in some polls that have been released.

one thinks these people cant act any dumber and then they do.  wow.

by changeagain2012 2010-11-05 04:22PM | 0 recs
Pelosi would do a great job

You really need to look at this election in historic terms. The special interest groups, lobbyists - even ELECTED A LOBBYIST this cycle. 85% of the money was spent on the GOP. And it was all targeted to 'high value' targets like Alan Grayson, Pelosi, and Sen. Harry Reid.

 

So in this scenario, Pelosi and Reid held on - and Grayson - who was from a conservative district to begin with- got pole-axed. But Grayson's message lives on.

 

Pelosi is fine.

 

by Trey Rentz 2010-11-05 01:33PM | 0 recs
RE: "historic terms"

The most important "historic term" it seems to me is the fact that the Democratic Party in the House lost 60+seats in this past election, most of them in areas where the opponents were able to directly tie the candidate to, oh wait, Nancy Pelosi. If Nancy Pelosi beras no responsibility for the dissatisfaction of so many voters with their representation in the House... who does? History, it seems to me, tells us that when losses of this magnitude are sustained, it's time to at least think about a change in leadership and direction. This, it seems to me, is absolutely the moment to find a new Minority Leader.

 

I'd also point out that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats salvaged their majority, and limited the expected losses, including Reid himself. Reid, it could also be noted, won his race - by a larger margin than he's ever won in the past - by returning to the core Denocratic Party appeals: looking to working class voters, looking to new voters and recent immigrants, and working hard to get out the vote at the grassroots level. There was nowhere near that kind of coherence or thought to many of the House races (and I know that quite directly, as my Representative, originally elected in 2006, was part of the wave that lost), and that lack of a defining message of what Democrats stand for, it seems to me, is a central responsibility of the party's leadership. No one more so, it seems to me, than the Speaker of the House.

 

I think there are many qualities in Nancy Pelosi which are admirable; however, it seems clear that the skills and strategies which would have sustained our majority and protected us against major losses are different from the skills she has... and for that reason, it's time to find a new Minority Leader and move on. Repeating history, expecting a different result... sems simply wishful.

by nycweboy1 2010-11-05 04:01PM | 0 recs
RE: Pelosi would do a great job

if you dont think that pelosi and reid are as tight with the K street lobbying world as any GOP leader - well, you just dont know what happens here in DC

by changeagain2012 2010-11-05 04:24PM | 1 recs

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