by nycweboy1, Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 10:13:03 AM EDT
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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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