I attended a gathering of Democrats on Monday morning in the group’s first meeting since the election. While there was a lot of post election analysis, one of the topics that kept coming up in conversations (including by the event’s speaker) was what should be done with the leadership of the Democratic Party.
While a lot of people were focused in on who would be the next Chair of the Democratic National Committee, I believe who will be the next Minority Leader in the House of Representatives is just as important. Unfortunately, that discussion isn’t not getting nearly enough attention outside a few folks who closely follow what’s going on in Congress.
Many folks at Monday’s event didn’t even realize that the House Democratic Caucus had voted to delay leadership elections last week — and these are people who actively involved in local politics. Perhaps this is because people aren’t satisfied with the current candidates running for House leadership.
Even in a Boston Globe article describing how Nancy Pelosi has “only tepid support from the Massachusetts caucus of lawmakers,” for instance, Tim Ryan’s challenge is described as simply “unexpected.” On top of that, there’s not any discussion about why he’s getting some support other than the belief that Democrats need to reach out more to rust belt voters — something that could supposedly be done by electing a minority leader from Ohio.
Tim Ryan has made it clear that he also believes producing electoral results is something Democrats need from their House leadership. In an interview with Roll Call, he made it clear that he believes it’s the Minority Leader’s job right now to make Democrats the majority party of the 2018 election.
“This is about winning. If we’re not winning then we shouldn’t keep people in their jobs,” the seven-term congressman told Roll Call, explaining his decision to challenge Nancy Pelosi for her long-held leadership post. “If we don’t win the House back in two years, I won’t run. That just needs to be the standard.”
This discussion is missing a big element here. Democrats lost the election because they weren’t able to excite the base and have a big turnout like in 2008 and 2012. Now that the GOP controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, Democrats need a leader who will be able to fight for a progressive agenda.
Furthermore, this isn’t just about one or two elections. As one leading liberal said about the leadership race via email, progressives “must focus on connecting to and winning life cycles rather than focusing only on winning the next FEC deadline or the next news or election cycle.”
While a lot of people agree with Ryan’s comments about not simply rewarding people who don’t produce results, there also needs to be a strong alternative to replace the current leadership. We need someone who will fight long term for progressive values, not just win the next election.
So while the Congressman from Ohio might be a great voice to reach out to the rust belt and win a few news cycles, he hasn’t done anything to prove he’s a stronger progressive or more capable leader in the House than Nancy Pelosi.
I’ve seen Nancy Pelosi excite a room full of people supporting local candidates like Rep. Gerry Connolly, which will help with some of the politics. I’ve also seen her continously fight for legislation that would have long term benefits for all Americans despite being in the minority. So while we need to hold her accountable and I’m not opposed to bringing new blood into Congressional leadership, that is why I support Pelosi for another term as Minority Leader.