Socialist know-nothing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the future of the Democrat Party. Nancy Pelosi is its past, but she’s probably its present too despite threats to deny her another Speakership.
The Ocasio-Cortez contingent in the party has determined that Nancy Pelosi simply isn’t radical enough. That will be news to many on the American Right for whom she has served as a longtime bête noir and whose strident advocacy of San Francisco values provided fodder for countless Republican campaign ads and fundraising letters.
For Republicans she’s a radical who favors amnesty, citizenship, and voting rights for illegal aliens, government funded abortion on demand, and impeaching the president. But in the current Democrat Party she’s a mushy moderate. For her part, Ocasio-Cortez spent Tuesday, her first day in Washington, DC, protesting climate change in Pelosi’s office. And here I thought climate change was President Trump’s fault.
So what do Democrats want? For one thing, they seem to want people decidedly to the Left of Pelosi. After all, in the recently past election they elected not only Ocasio-Cortez but also fellow-travelers like Lauren Underwood in Illinois and the Israel-hating Ilhan Omar who has been accused of marrying her brother. But that doesn’t mean Pelosi won’t take up the Speaker’s gavel again. She’s a shrewd and ruthless political operator who retains the loyalty of much of the caucus, even though some progressives promised in their campaigns this fall that they would not support her. And Democrats might not want internal strife right now.
Two years ago, when Donald Trump’s victory made the white working class that year’s electoral unicorn, some Democrats thought they needed a leader like Tim Ryan, a white, male, blue-collar Democrat from a rust-belt district in Ohio. He unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi for Speaker in 2017 and said the day before the midterms that he might do so again. This year, with a raft of recently-elected radical progressive women, Democrats are unlikely to find him compelling.
Democrats have, as ever, an aggressive legislative agenda that would, in Barack Obama’s words, ‘fundamentally transform the country’ but they know it’s going nowhere. House Democrats will probably pass a massive expansion of Medicaid, an amnesty bill, and maybe legislation to take control of elections away from the states. They won’t become law, but they will whet the appetite of their base and give them rallying points for their campaign to take control of the Senate in 2020 when Republicans will be defending 22 seats. But for now, with a divided Congress, everything but essential legislation will be mooted until 2021.
But unlike Republicans who, under the ineffectual leadership of the Ryan-McCarthy team dithered away two years of unified government, Democrats will use the power they have. And that means aggressive application of the House’s subpoena power to defame, delegitimize, and destroy the president and everyone in his circle. Already incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has made it clear that he intends to ‘go all in on Russia’ and impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
At this point, Nancy Pelosi, who was long on the leftward fringe of her party, is now no longer truly representative of the new Jacobins who form the center of power. But so far none have emerged to challenge her. That’s mostly structural: the powerful committee leaders, who ascend to power on seniority and fealty are mostly devoted to Pelosi, while the claque most likely to want to oust Pelosi is composed largely of backbenchers and incoming freshman.
What’s more, Pelosi has the backing of the institutional Left. The Washington Post reports that the pro-abortion lobbying and donation dispensing juggernaut, Emily’s List has made calls to incoming Democrats supporting Pelosi and that ‘The leaders of two major unions — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Teachers — sent letters Monday declaring their support.’ So while there’s probably an appetite for new leadership there is no obvious new leader. And as politicos are wont to remind us, you can’t be someone with no one. This means that the 78 year old Pelosi is very likely to become the next Speaker.
But given her age and often remarked upon public disorientation, Democrats should be considering the future. And that means grooming the next generation by replacing Steny Hoyer and others in the leadership structure. Ambitious Democrats who want to lead their party in the post-Pelosi era should be focusing their efforts there.