Nancy Pelosi’s Win, and What It Means for ProgressivesPhoto by Mark Wilson/Getty Politics Features Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi retained her position as House Minority Leader, defeating insurgent candidate and Ohio Representative Tim Ryan. Ryan had castigated Pelosi and the Democratic Party for losing focus on the economic issues that impact the working class, assisting in the election of Donald Trump.
“We need a brand as a party that says, we are the party that is going to help working-class people—white people, black people, brown people, gay people, straight people; improve opportunity for them to grow their wages, to have security, economic security,” he told CNN.
The New York Times characterized the win as an indicator of the future direction of the Democratic Party.
After a dismal Election Day for Democrats, the fight for Ms. Pelosi’s post had become a proxy battle for the future of the party, with House Democrats agonizing over how to reconnect with the working-class voters who abandoned them.
Democrats also re-elected Representative Steny H. Hoyer, 77, of Maryland as whip, the No. 2 position, as well as Representative James E. Clyburn, 76, of South Carolina, in the No. 3 spot as the assistant Democratic leader. Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Clyburn have been part of the Democratic leadership team since 2003 and 2007, respectively.
As such, Clinton Democrats and their allies who have been resistant to calls from the left for a new direction, have lauded the victory.
Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC and The Daily Beast tweeted that it was a victory for women:
Experienced woman beats less credentialed man for job she’s worked her arse off for. See? It can happen in America! https://t.co/DbMWsWfC7H
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) November 30, 2016
Republicans are also quite pleased, celebrating the win as a sure sign that the Democrats have not learned anything from the 2016 election.
Congrats to House Dems for reelecting Nancy Pelosi! Helps advance GOP cause enormously. Ellison for DNC chair next please!
— Karl Rove (@KarlRove) November 30, 2016
It is only 25 days until Christmas and House Dems reelected Nancy Pelosi today as Minority Leader. Thank you Saint Nick.
— Rep. Mark Walker (@RepMarkWalker) November 30, 2016
Naturally, progressives and those on the left were furious for the same reason:
Nancy Pelosi remains leader of the House Dems? How many seats did the Dems lose? Answer: Not enough to wake them up. Pathetic.
— Tim Black ™ (@RealTimBlack) November 30, 2016
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer Minority leaders. Hillary considering 2020 run. Democrats still blaming Russia. Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/swyYuApqUG
— Pat the Berner (@SilERabbit) November 30, 2016
Congrats Democrats for re-electing Nancy Pelosi… And taking a hard stand for being COMPLETELY OUT OF TOUCH with everyday Americans! pic.twitter.com/e5Tfu5AUju
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) November 30, 2016
But the result of the election should give everyone pause.
Pelosi, who became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007, has been a fundraising powerhouse, and as a result, her grip on the House Democratic leadership has been near absolute for over a decade. As The New York Times story points out, she has faced few challengers during her tenure, defeating her last one with a loss of just 43 votes. She was heavily favored to win this time around. Still, she lost a third of her support.
Following the GOP’s sweep in 2016, Democrats are beginning to realize that the party needs a new direction, and Pelosi is already feeling the mounting pressure to embrace change, evidenced by the minor reforms she promised before the election. As the Times reports:
Trying to quell calls to replace her, Ms. Pelosi announced her nominations last week for a handful of other positions, and proposed that three members from Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York share the leadership duties of the party’s messaging committee, offering more regional diversity. She also released plans to incorporate more junior members into leadership roles, among other ideas, such as including a freshman Democrat in the leadership team’s regular meetings.
Cold comfort as these efforts may be to the left, the 2018 election is around the corner, and 2020 is off in the distance. A new hashtag, #DemEnter, promises that many sitting Democrats will face primary challenges from progressives. With her support base already eroding, the prospect of a new class of congressional Democrats, Pelosi and the Democratic establishment, are operating on borrowed time.
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