The Democrats Have a Rare Opportunity to Be Smart. Anyone Taking Bets?
It turns out that the “Blue Wave” actually was a wave. It just took a while to come in. Results described as “not since Watergate” say a lot. Remarkably, a recent poll says that a good part of Republican voters believe their side won. Must have listened to Mr. Trump’s press conference, then turned off the TV. We live in strange times.
I have often thought that the national symbol of the Democratic Party should not be a donkey. It should be foot, with a large, self-inflicted bullet hole in it. This bunch can pick a fit within its own rank with amazing speed and predictability. There are stirrings to do that in the next few days. The issue is the Speaker of the House.
No matter how one feels about Pelosi, know that much of the negativity about her has come from Russian bots and from Paul Ryan’s office. There is also a large dose of material from a group hired by Paul Ryan. Not that there are not issues. If you plan to stop reading now, know that this discussion is not going where you may think it is. Hang in there a bit longer, dear reader.
A small number (17?) of the incoming class for the House ran their campaigns on a plan to not vote for Pelosi as Speaker. No doubt they felt that was the right call. Still, it was one encouraged by opposition forces. It will likely put the incoming freshmen in some difficult places in coming days.
How much better to have said something like, “We need change and a new vision. But I am not so self-centered as to think I know everything to be considered with this important decision. I have never even met Nancy Pelosi. I promise you my best judgement when I have enough information to make an informed decision.”
But that did not happen, so here we are. I expect Pelosi has more than enough votes. With some important caveats discussed shortly, she makes her case. Let’s look at a few considerations:
- Pelosi led the House campaign to the biggest win her team has seen in decades. She was key in coordinating resources, endorsements, schedules, and more. Seems an odd time to fire the coach. Schumer was reelected as Senate Minority Leader following a much lesser performance. Granted, his battle lines were orders of magnitude tougher. Nevertheless, the House results were almost twice what was needed.
- No one comes close to Pelosi as a fund raiser. Give me a system free from the tyranny of money, PLEASE. But until that blessed day, I will remember that Pelosi is a phenomenal fund raiser and always has been. Our moral outrage notwithstanding, I do not expect Democrats wish to enter coming fights unarmed.
- Pelosi knows how to hold a cantankerous caucus together. I remember when Obama Care was on the line and everyone but the President was giving up. Pelosi held the line and said this could be done. She had taken in the lessons when President Clinton tried to do this, and his own party did much to sink the effort.
- Most importantly, experience in how to the run the House is critical for the next two years. This is true if (1) Anything is to get done and (2) Democrats are to have a record going into 2020. This is way more than just scheduling and deciding what gets a vote. There are countless nuances to getting things done while strengthening members in their districts. I have watched an amateur stumble around the White House for two years. I don’t need a repeat performance in the House. Neither does the country.
So, Pelosi for Speaker, right? Not so fast. Yes, that selection makes great sense, but with the following caveat.
To me the perfect solution looks like the following. Pelosi confirms she is running for Speaker. She looks forward to a productive legislative session. She also looks forward to mutual learning and mutual respect among House Democrats.
It is her view that they have several mandates from the country. One is to govern well now. Another is to build for tomorrow. Accordingly, she makes important and broad appointments to leadership posts. She announces that following the 2020 elections, she will step down as Speaker and pass the gavel to a new generation of leaders. Those new leader candidates will be announced BEFORE the elections.
Let’s take advantage of Pelosi’s skills and recognize her role in building her party. Let’s also not tell new members there is no place for them in the leadership of that party. It is time for our septuagenarians to start passing the levers of power to their successors. Let’s do so graciously and with practicality.
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