In a rational world, this headline should have appeared the day after the 2010 midterm elections. For some reason, despite becoming the poster child for Republicans in the race that won them a net gain of 68 seats in the House, House Democrats decided to keep Nancy Pelosi as their caucus leader. They talk a big game in 2012 about taking back control after the 2012 election, but privately they wonder what will come next when Pelosi retires after another loss:
“We’re not a party of ‘young guns,’ ” bemoans one senior party strategist, a reference to the 40-something clique of House GOP leaders—Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and Kevin McCarthy of California.
“Just look at the landscape. There’s a real dearth of talented, dynamic communicators right now in the caucus,” said the source, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the leadership. “People are either too liberal, or too conservative … or too old.”
That is debatable; that the triumvirate of House Democratic leaders assuredly is not composed of “young guns” is not.
Pelosi, of California, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland are both 72. Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress, is 71. By comparison, Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is 62, Majority Leader Cantor is 48, and Majority Whip McCarthy is 47.
They have no one to blame but themselves. The massive defeat should have triggered a general house-cleaning (House-cleaning?) in Democratic leadership, the traditional outcome for heavy losses as voters express no confidence in previous leadership. Instead, Pelosi refused to step aside, and Democrats made no concessions to the anger of voters who gave Pelosi’s leadership and majority the boot.
The “real dearth of talented, dynamic communicators” arises from that decision. After all, the other members of the House Democratic caucus had to be good enough communicators to get elected in the first place. Instead of testing some of their bench talent, almost all of whom had won more than one election, they kept their sclerotic, failed leaders in place. That give Democrats no opportunity to see what some of their caucus members might do, and certainly gave voters every indication that they had no regard for their feedback.
Now Democrats want to go back to the voters with the same failed leadership in place and argue for another chance to disgust voters again. Good luck with that message.