What happens when entrenched leadership refuses to give up power, even after repeated losses? Oh, let’s not always see the same Republican hands. The answer: potential new leaders end up cooling their heels in their current positions. Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong points out that Nancy Pelosi’s decision to remain House Minority Leader despite two successive Congressional losses means that two members of the younger set won’t be able to make their way into leadership:
The House Democratic leadership mold continues to harden, as Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida are expected to remain in their current positions, which are effectively out of the upper echelon of caucus leadership ranks.
On Thursday, the Democratic Caucus is on track to sign off on keeping its top leaders in place for the 113th Congress — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.
Current Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra of California is on track to win his bid to become caucus chairman, and Reps. Joseph Crowley of New York and Barbara Lee of California are vying to become caucus vice chairman.
Pelosi’s Nov. 14 decision to stay left the top ranks in place, stranding three would-be leaders — Van Hollen, Wasserman Schultz and current Caucus Chairman John B. Larson of Connecticut — without obvious places to move up to.
Daniel Halper notes that Roll Call leaves Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ status a little hazy, as with Van Hollen as well. They have not “formally announced their plans,” but unless they want to give up their ambitions for leadership, there isn’t much else they can do, other than swapping roles. That is the fallout from Pelosi’s decision to retain her grip on power, and from the caucus’ decision that they can’t live without her, too. In some sense, this is a vote of no confidence in the next generation of House Democratic leadership, or at least no confidence yet.
Given Wasserman Schultz’ performance as DNC chair, that doesn’t seem irrational, either. She started off by accusing Republicans of wanting to bring back Jim Crow, and ended up marginalized as a surrogate for Team Obama, with plenty of embarrassments along the way. (Getting reamed by Anderson Cooper for lying was one of the most prominent examples.) Three months ago, Politico’s Glenn Thrush revealed conflicts between Wasserman Schultz and the White House in his e-book, and Politico reported that their polling showed her the least effective of their surrogates.
That prompts the question of why Democrats would keep her in the DNC slot at all. Of course, they haven’t yet, but with the mixed results of the election, it might be difficult to justify jettisoning her. Democrats increased their majority in the Senate, which went against expectations, and gained seats in the House, if not many considering the outcomes of the Senate and presidency. Perhaps they just don’t have anyone prominent enough who can fill the role even to the level of Wasserman Schultz. Organizational skills aren’t exactly in play, as Wasserman Schultz put the DNC in debt without putting Pelosi back in the Speaker’s chair — which would have created the leadership opening the DNC chair sought.