Nancy Pelosi’s Win, and What It Means for Progressives

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Nancy Pelosi’s Win, and What It Means for Progressives

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:

Republicans are also quite pleased, celebrating the win as a sure sign that the Democrats have not learned anything from the 2016 election.

Naturally, progressives and those on the left were furious for the same reason:

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.

Follow Walker Bragman on Twitter.