Via the Free Beacon, I’m not exaggerating in the headline. It’s a verbatim quote. And he’s saying this in defense of re-electing Nancy Pelosi as minority leader. “At least we have some proven leadership that can, you know, take us into what’s going to be a new era,” says Emanuel Cleaver. Is that right? What has that proven leadership proved, except that it knows how to alienate enough of the country to give Republicans total control of government?
Just for fun, let me play devil’s advocate. Do House Democrats need a strategy? They’re the least powerful faction in the federal government. Chuck Schumer and his Senate Democrats at least have the filibuster (for now) to block Supreme Court appointments and bills they don’t like. Pelosi has nothing. She can’t set the House agenda, she can’t stop Paul Ryan and the GOP from passing whatever they like, and she doesn’t have enough seats to make Ryan particularly nervous about losing some Republican votes on any given proposal. She can’t even point to 2018 as a prime opportunity to take back the House. Democrats will probably pick up seats given that it’s a midterm election with someone from the other party in the White House, but Democrats were also probably going to take back the Senate this fall. Even if Team Blue does gain seats in the next Congress, they’d need to flip 25 or so to regain a majority, which is a tall order. They’re likely to be in the minority for Trump’s entire term as president. What “strategy” can anyone muster in that predicament?
One possibility, I guess, would be for Pelosi to huddle with Schumer, who has the only real Democratic leverage over policy right now, and come up with compromise proposals on policy matters where Ryan and McConnell are unlikely to be able to hold their caucuses together. If they can be proactive in promising the GOP some Democratic votes if they move a bit towards the center, it might make Republicans — Trump, especially — more inclined to buck the party line and make a deal. Case in point: Trump is certainly more open to a Democratic-style public works infrastructure stimulus than the more ideological members of Ryan’s caucus are. If Pelosi cooks up a bill with a blend of spending and tax breaks and promises Trump 100 Democratic votes for it, he’ll have more freedom to play hardball with Ryan once the Speaker inevitably comes to him and says that he can’t deliver 218 Republicans for a massive new spending bill. Can Ryan deliver … 118 votes for it, Trump might ask? Well, then, it’s time to loop Pelosi and Schumer in on a deal. The threshold question for Democrats is whether they’d accept half a loaf on a stimulus and other matters or whether they’ll bow to their activists and insist on obstructing Trump in everything that he tries to do. (Whether red-state Democratic Senators who have to face the voters in 2018 will go along with a series of filibusters is an open question.) Only when they answer that question can Pelosi decide whether to walk away from Ryan altogether or whether to dial up Trump and try to start nudging him to the left.