A number of newly elected House Democrats won with, among other things, a promise not to support Nancy Pelosi. Why? And, is there a path to unseat her as presumptive Speaker of the House?
Pelosi has been a favorite target for Republicans contempt. They see her as an ultra-liberal, west coast Democrat who promotes giveaway programs for the undeserving. Many of them oppose her simply because she is a clever, and very successful, politician. Underlying those reasons is opposition for the simple fact that she is a woman.
Pelosi’s maiden name was included above to emphasize the point that Nancy Pelosi grew up in the home of Thomas J. D’Alessandro jr. who was mayor of Baltimore and a member of congress. She is known as a consummate vote counter and fund raiser and - although fellow members of congress say they have never seen her punish anyone for lack of support – it is assumed by anyone that allies with her will be rewarded and opponents will fade into obscurity.
So, why do newly elected Democratic members of the House want new leadership?
They have run as moderates and want someone as Speaker who can garner bi-partisan support for bills. They see the House leadership as calcified. Certainly, it is advanced in age, and Pelosi, who has been in a leadership position for fifteen years is not likely to change her modus operandi.
Of course, it is unlikely that Pelosi will gather any support from House Republicans, and the degree to which the House majority will be of the Democratic Party is not yet known, but Pelosi will need 218 votes and presently has 61 confirmed, signature-on-paper, supporters. That will change as we draw near January.
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) was considering a run for Speaker
She has dropped that bid and will support Pelosi
“Fudge announced her decision just as Pelosi said she was naming the Ohio congresswoman as incoming chair of a newly revived elections subcommittee that will delve into voting rights access…”
Perhaps representative of the newly elected Democratic members is Harley Rouda. Rouda won in Orange County, California (in an area that Ronald Reagan described as so conservative that it was “where all conservatives go to die”, beating out fifteen term Republican incumbent, Dana Rohrbacher. His message was one of inclusiveness and celebration of diversity. Rouda became a multi-millionaire by winning the lottery and is quoted as saying,
“Most of all, we want to live in a world brought together by hope, not divided by hate.’’
In the district where Rouda won, fifty six percent of the population is Hispanic (35%) and Asian (21%) with non-Hispanic whites making up forty percent of the population. Democrats swept the seven seats in Orange County.
Obama in 2008 ran on a plea for Hope and Change. We had a lot of hope but didn’t see much change in the attitudes of his opponents. Is the demographic shift in the country great enough to force change?
According to the Pew Research Center, “Overall, whites(2) made up 76.3% of the record 131 million people(3) who voted in November’s  presidential election, while blacks made up 12.1%, Hispanics 7.4% and Asians 2.5%.4 The white share is the lowest ever, yet is still higher than the 65.8% white share of the total U.S. population.” (Pew Hispanic Center, 2009)
Democrats seem unclear at this point why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. Neutral analysts (not party affiliated) have different views. An article in Vox attributes it to the fact that Clinton and Trump were the most disliked candidates in recent history. Comparing the favorable ratings of both to previous candidates it was posited that if Clinton had just had the favorability rating of Dukakis or Trump the favorability of Mitt Romney they would have beaten the other. As it turned out Hillary was slightly less disliked than Trump, but in the wrong places.
Pew Research says it was about gender, race and education and that Trump gained no more white votes than Romney had in 2012.
Although Hillary Clinton enjoyed a significant advantage over Trump among younger (18-29) voters fewer turned out in 2016 compared to either 2008 or 2012. Older adults preferred Trump by the same margin that they had preferred Romney. White, non-college educated voters chose Trump by a wide margin.
What does this mean for the Democratic Party as it prepares to be the House majority? There are immediate issues that Congress will need to deal with such as the ACA, protecting the DOJ special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference, immigration, and other domestic issues. There must also be some party cohesion for the 2020 elections. If the House can’t even find a strong leader that they can support, how can the party come up with a strong slate for President and an effective campaign?
The country is becoming browner, but as that is happening Hispanics are disproportionately uninvolved in voting, and they are breaking old patterns of party affiliation with younger generations becoming more apt to vote Republican.
The Democratic Party, it can be argued, needs to focus less on voter blocs organized around race, gender and ethnicity, and more on the needs of individual working class voters and their families, of all ethnicities, educational backgrounds and genders.
Young voters stayed home in 2016 because the things that they wanted – and that Bernie Sanders spoke for – were not the focus of Clinton and the DNC.
It is anecdotal, but a number of young people told me that they would not vote for Trump, but they could never vote for Hillary. When asked why they just said, “I don’t trust her.”
That statement echoes the report in Vox; that there was a low level of trust for either candidate. It was that young vote that tipped the scales for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 because they heavily favored him, and they came out in record numbers to vote.
The newly elected House has an increase in women of both parties. There may be a potential House Speaker among those women, but they have not yet had the experience or gained the power to be Speaker. For good or ill, I think Pelosi will be the next Speaker of the House.
But, as we know from the 2016 presidential election; in politics, anything is possible.