As Pelosi Backs Away, A New Generation of Democrats Steps Forward

One day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced she would step back from leading the House Democratic caucus, a changing of the guard began, led by a crop of Democrats tasked with charting a new path for the party as it reaches a generational inflection point.

Seasoned and newer Democratic lawmakers eagerly embraced the prospect of a fresh start that could usher in a new era for the Democratic Party, as new leaders Friday announced their intention to fill the vacancies left by Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.). The first major reshuffle of House Democratic leadership in decades will not only affect which policies Democrats pursue, but also bring with ita shifting view of how leadership should function.

Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine M. Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) have emerged as the expected leaders of the next chapter, officially announcing their candidacies for the Democratic caucus’s top three positions on Friday. Besides the appeal of their relative youth — all are younger than 60, while the current top three are all older than 80 — the trio more robustly represents the diversity within the Democratic Party. Jeffries, 52, would break barriers as the first Black person to lead any party in either chamber of Congress. Clark, 58, could become the second woman to serve as minority whip, and Aguilar, 43, would be the second Hispanic lawmaker to chair the caucus if elected this month.

“In the 118th Congress, House Democrats will be led by a trio that reflects our beautiful diversity of our nation. Chair Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Clark and Vice Chair Aguilar know that, in our Caucus, diversity is our strength and unity is our power,” Pelosi said in a statement endorsing the candidates Friday.

Roughly two dozen Democratic lawmakers who spoke to The Washington Post this week were hopeful about the new generation of leaders expected to take charge, while many also noted that they hoped to elect colleagues to the rest of the large Democratic leadership slate who will expand age, cultural and regional diversity.

House Democrats overwhelmingly recognize, however, that no one leader in the new generation can be as powerful as Pelosi, who maintains the ability to achieve legislative results by coaxing members in the direction needed.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who has known Pelosi for almost four decades, acknowledged Pelosi’s style of “tough love” is what forged consensus to achieve historic feats like passing the landmark Affordable Care Act, several priorities of President Biden’s agenda and other bills that required sacrifices from members who may not have agreed with all provisions.

“She’s been a leader, a speaker, that has led through many, many difficult days,” Lee said. “But yes, she has always risen to the occasion and has shepherded through this Congress transformational legislation.”

A post-Speaker Pelosi House

Without that tight grip, members privately have mused over the past year, the new reality couldcreate a scenario where no one can control members’ demands.

“If no one’s living in fear of the speaker of the House, then maybe it’s a complete s—show,” one Democratic lawmaker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

But that is a risk many Democrats see as worth taking. They have grown tired of what several described as top-down governance, and they want to see new leaders engage more often with the ideological factions of the caucus before decisions are made, avoiding last-minute spats over legislation.

Reverence also was expressed toward Pelosi for shattering the marble ceiling, an acknowledgment that without her, Hoyer and Clyburn, members would not have such a structurally strong foundation on which to build and expand the caucus.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of “The Squad,” made up largely of liberal women of color, wants to see the new leaders make more inroads with the most progressive members of the caucus, noting that their lived experiences aren’t routinely considered.

“Sometimes I feel treated as if my background — and it’s not just me, there are others, I can speak personally for myself — is like something that should be put in the corner,” she said, noting her background as an unhoused single parent working for low wages, as well as experience with domestic and sexual violence.

Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar spent much of the past term forging relationships throughout the caucus and acknowledging they would rely on one another’s strengths to bring all viewpoints to the decision-making table. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) credited the team, particularly Jeffries, for working in an inclusive manner and seeking input from colleagues.

“Having the first African American leader of either political party, I think, is really significant,” he said. “On top of that … [Jeffries is] extraordinarily talented, an amazing messenger of our values, a strong strategist, and someone who is inclusive and seeks input from his colleagues.”

Many older members in the caucus took the passing of the torch in stride, echoing Pelosi’s words read from Scripture during her Thursday speech, that there is “a time and a season” for everything. It’s a realization Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) had this year when he decided to retire after 15 years in the House. Before doing so, he called Morgan McGarvey, 42, to inquire if he would run for his seat in Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District because of his skill — and age.

“The world is moving at 100 miles an hour. Congress at its max, at its optimum efficiency, moves at 10 miles. So you need people who are more accustomed to the pace of change and adapting to the pace of change,” he said just hours after he was officially kicked out of his office in the Cannon Office Building. “Because if this body doesn’t figure out how to do that, it’s going to become irrelevant.”

Help from the ‘old guard’

While there is an overwhelming eagerness to start anew, several members were glad to hear that the “old guard” would still be around next term. It served as a relief for several, who had previously expressed worry that the new generation has not had enough time to harness their legislating and negotiating chops. The expected new top three in the caucus have served a collective 27 years in Congress, compared with the 58 years combined that Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn have served in leadership alone.

“I think for one thing, when you’re in the minority, it really is time to train people to be in the majority,” Hoyer said in an MSNBC interview Friday, echoing what many members have expressed about a transitional time being beneficial to new leaders.

Moreover, Hoyer retains a respectful relationship with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who earned the GOP conference’s nomination to be speaker next term. Both McCarthy and Jeffries have acknowledged not having a solid relationship, as both have often spent the past several years trading barbs.

Several Democratic lawmakers who spoke to The Post say Jeffries has proved himself to be a reliable antagonist against Republicans and their policies, a role he will have to play in the minority. But the ability to legislate and negotiate will be a test for the new trio as Republicans begin to acknowledge that they will have to rely on Democrats to approve must-pass legislation to overcome their razor-thin majority.

During a weekly news conference days before Pelosi stepped aside, Jeffries said House Democrats have always shown a willingness to work with the GOP, noting that the caucus previously worked with the Trump administration on policies “because we understood it was the right thing to do for America.” But where they engage depends on the proposals Republicans put forth.

“I think the metric of this caucus is: Does the policy help our communities, and does it help our country?” Aguilar said. “But if Republicans are going to engage in the continued extremism that we’ve seen over the past few years, then I don’t know if there’s an appetite.”

While the old guard will be around to give advice — particularly Clyburn, who is expected to remain in leadership — Pelosi said in an interview Thursday that she does not want to encroach on how Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar choose to lead the caucus.

“I have no intention of being the mother-in-law in the kitchen saying, ‘My son doesn’t like the stuffing that way. This is the way we make it in our family.’ They will have their vision. They will have their plan,” she said.

Instead, her closest confidants are hoping the new guard will allow Pelosi to step back and relax.

Click here to read the full article in the Washington Post

Comments

  1. Robin Itzler - Patriot Neighbors says

    Sadly, the new generation of Democrats lean toward Marxism. Democrats like my parents (long gone, but from the Roosevelt – Kennedy era of Democrats) would not have wanted to vote for either Obama or Biden.

    To be fair, most of today’s Democrats should be called “Marxist-leaning Democrats.”

    • It started with Wilson. The NEW POLITICS of radical socialism and communism.

      They were convinced by Roosevelt that socialism was the best and greatest. People had suffered under the Depression and willing to vote for fantasy land. It is interesting to see the economic structure of the nation prior to WWII and under Hoover and you will find the greatest problems of the Depression had settled out.

      While the WPA solved a short term issue the long term economy was on the rebound.

      Even Kennedy was walking back from the Roosevelt handouts.

      As you say Robin…. These are Marxists and regardless of the title this form of economics has always failed in the history of the human race.

  2. Robert Wilson says

    I agree with Robin !!!

  3. Hammer is the new horse head

  4. Richard Cathcart says

    Her Exalted Ladyship Pelosi will be in the background in the House of Representatives, out of the news spotlight which might have proved wilting due to her bizarre husband’s “accidents” and “crime victimhood” status. She is a pestilence which like COVID won’t recede into History’s dustbin gracefully.

  5. No matter who these marxist communist fascist racist democrats are, or what they are, they will still be evil. Democrats are the real “satanic evil” in America for the last 300 years! Slavery, blantant hypocracy, record killing of innocent babies, record fuel prices, food shortages, men in women’s restrooms and sports, secret sex change operations on our children, militarizing and using the IRS and FBI to arrest conservatives in the middle of the night, trampling all over our 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendments whenever they feel like it, taxes, more taxes, higher taxes, free speech censorship, spying on U.S. Presidents, conservative government officials and U.S. citizens, CRT and faggot transgenders indoctrinating in our corrupt school system, record inflation, business killing regulations, open borderes, highest crime rates/shootings in democrat run cities, Quid Pro Quo, BLM, antifa, racism, fascism, white supremacy, KKK, segregation, Jim Crow laws, dishonesty, lying, cheating, communism, and sociopathology, and don’t forget voter fraud. Did I leave anything out?

  6. Best quote from this article: “If no one’s living in fear of the speaker of the House, then maybe it’s a complete s—show,” Truer words were never spoken. The insane distractions of diversity and inclusion, CRT, reparations, welfare for all will proliferate in the hands of the new flock. Progressives’ race to the bottom (aka catering to the lowest common denominator) will accelerate without a strong figure like Pelosi keeping some semblance of order.

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