Between this and Marcia Fudge’s surrender last night, I’m now convinced that the biennial “Pelosi faces revolt in leadership fight” stories are just a media conspiracy to spice up the otherwise boring lame-duck news cycle. Or they’re an early Christmas gift to reporters from House Democrats to thank them for being on the liberal team all year long. Every two years a few caucus members are tasked with mounting a phony rebellion against Nancy to generate a little kabuki intrigue for the press to cover.
This year’s puppet show almost lasted until Thanksgiving. Almost.
[Rep. Brian] Higgins, in a telephone interview with The Buffalo News, said he decided to support Pelosi after she agreed to rank two of his top priorities among the new Democratic House’s priorities. He said Pelosi agreed that Democrats will advance a major infrastructure bill early in the next Congress, and that Higgins will be able to take the lead as House Democrats also work to pass his proposal to allow people to buy in to Medicare at the age of 50…
Higgins’ move comes five months after he announced that he would not back Pelosi, 78, for the top Democratic position in the next House. Calling her “aloof, frenetic and misguided,” Higgins said at the time that his problems with Pelosi stemmed from the fact that she was not pushing infrastructure investment and his Medicare bill as aggressively as he would have liked.
But in a statement, Pelosi indicated she will be happy to do that in the next Congress.
This guy has an interesting view of “principle”:
Higgins statement: “Some will ask why I have changed my position. The answer is simple: I took a principled stand … A principled stand, however, often requires a pragmatic outlook in order to meet with success" https://t.co/OHZYJ98aba
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) November 21, 2018
Translation: The rebellion is falling apart before his eyes so he decided to squeeze Pelosi for concessions before a few more defections made his vote worthless to her. “The bottom line is, we don’t even have a semblance of a viable alternative at this point,” he said. With Fudge out of the running, that’s true. Tim Ryan, who challenged Pelosi two years ago, and Seth Moulton are probably her two most outspoken critics but each is way too “white guy” to prevail in the Democratic leadership fight. If the rebels can’t find a woman, preferably a minority woman, to challenge Pelosi then it’s over. Higgins recognized that and decided to cash in. I’m amazed more House Dems didn’t pretend to join the rebellion for the same reason, to see if they could get anything from her in return for abandoning.
But then, that’s a dangerous game. Do you want to make an enemy of Pelosi, not knowing if she’ll even need your vote to get to 218 in the end?
With her Speakership now all but guaranteed, America’s commentariat can get back to the important business of oohing and ahhing over how “effective” Pelosi is, never mind that her biggest achievement from 2010 until two weeks ago had been presiding over terrible House outcomes on Election Day. There’s no denying her pivotal role in getting ObamaCare passed, though. Or is there? Perry Bacon:
It’s true, Democrats passed a lot of major legislation in 2009 and 2010. But by far the most important factor in that success was that Democrats had total control of government — they had the presidency, a clear majority in the House and either 59 or 60 seats in the Senate. Pelosi is considered a liberal hero for one specific move: imploring Democrats to keep trying to push through the Affordable Care Act, even after the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts in early 2010 opened the door to GOP filibusters and was viewed as a signal that voters might be leery of the health care proposal. But Barack Obama, the sitting president, was also in favor of the pushing-ahead strategy. And so was much of the Democratic Party…
“She is a formidable legislator and negotiator, no question, but Steny Hoyer” — the No. 2 Democrat in the House — “would be too,” said Gisela Sin, a political science professor and congressional expert at the University of Illinois.
I think that’s the correct take. She was effective when it mattered most, ramming through a piece of domestic legislation which righties claimed over Democratic objection was nothing more or less than a pathbreaker for single-payer. Eight years later, single-payer is already atop the Democratic wish list. If paving the way for a total government takeover of health care is the “only” thing Pelosi ends up doing as Speaker it’ll still make her one of the most significant House members in history. But Bacon’s point remains: Are there no other “effective” members among the 230+ members of her side? The entire argument against Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn is that by hogging the leadership jobs for so many years they’ve left the next generation without experience in managing the caucus. Who else is effective who’s never gotten a chance to prove it?
She’ll have no opportunity to be “effective” before 2021 either, and maybe not for a few years after that. If you want to believe that Pelosi is a shrewd negotiator who would roll Trump in haggling over deals, that’s fine. But she won’t be bargaining with Trump exclusively, of course. She’ll be bargaining with a guy in the Senate who’s also approaching 80, has also led his caucus for more than a decade, who’s also pretty “effective” at advancing his own priorities, and who, unlike Trump, isn’t going to make deals that mainly benefit Democrats purely for the sake of making a deal. And unless Democrats figure out a way to take back the Senate in 2020, which is no easy task, Pelosi will be stuck negotiating with McConnell until 2023 at least. (She’ll be 83 that year. He’ll be 81.) She could be the most effective legislator in history and the fact is that she won’t have any chance to prove it in the short term, and possibly even the medium term.
Higgins noted in his comments to the Buffalo News that Pelosi will be in a “transitional” role as Speaker, which is either wishful thinking or just him getting a jump on the next biennial production of “Will Democrats push Nancy out?” kabuki. Exit quotation via Peter Beinart:
What Pelosi realized, however, was that the very breadth of the skepticism toward her afforded her an opportunity. She didn’t have to convince either moderates or progressives that she was their ideal choice. She only had to convince each group of would-be rebels that the other was worse.
Feeding suspicions about each other to the different wings of her party seems like a good long-term strategy for Democrats. Effective, you might say.