The national news media spent all of 2014 writing about the Republican civil war that never materialized. Even the one that did in 2015 to much attention from reporters and pundits — the stillborn rebellion against John Boehner — hardly delivered on the hype. Across the aisle, though, a more significant, and more overdue, rebellion against Nancy Pelosi may be percolating, Politico’s Lauren French and Anna Palmer report:
The California lawmaker is facing some of the most serious unrest she’s ever seen in her dozen years as the leader of the House Democrats: Members complain that the party has no message and no clear plan to retake the majority, despite good news on the economy that should have brought rewards at the polls. They also accuse senior lawmakers of failing to pull their weight in dues as they occupy coveted committee slots. …
In the past, Pelosi’s stature in the caucus tamped down any dissent. She outworked, out-hustled and outmaneuvered any potential rival, and her influence — bolstered by the millions she raises for House Democrats — is still unmatched. Even after November’s losses, the Democrats unanimously elected her to continue serving as minority leader.
“You heard the vote on the floor when we were trying to elect a speaker,” said California Rep. Xavier Becerra, the chairman of the Democratic Caucus. “I think it was pretty clear, as diverse a group as Democrats are, we are very united behind Nancy Pelosi.”
But she is not as unilaterally formidable as she once was. That was shown by her failure in November to get a key ally, California Rep. Anna Eshoo, elected to the top Democratic spot on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the failed attempt to force changes to the $1.1 trillion government spending bill that Republicans crafted in December.
The grumblings about Pelosi came almost immediately after the midterm elections, which the Democrats lost in spectacular fashion — the third loss in a row for House Democrats under Pelosi. Under her leadership, House Democrats have gone 2-4 in national elections starting in 2004. Last November, Pelosi argued, “I’m the one that brung everyone to the party by winning the House in the first place,” paralleling an old adage about loyalty. However, Pelosi largely lucked out in 2006 with Bush fatigue, and even more so in 2008. Ever since, the electorate keeps providing reminders to Democrats that they’re not happy with the sharp left turn under Pelosi, while Republicans are delighted to make her an issue in every cycle.
French and Palmer also note this as a problem. One unnamed member of Pelosi’s caucus says the need to bring up suburban issues has become “an evangelical mission” in the Democratic caucus retreats. Gerry Connolly told Politico that the caucus needs to have an open discussion on what went wrong in this midterm and the last one as well. That sends a rather pointed signal to Pelosi’s leadership, not just during the midterms but also legislatively as well. Some of this can be left on Barack Obama’s doorstep, but Pelosi has been a loyal water-carrier for Obama — and sometimes provides the push to move him farther to the Left and more out of synch with voters.
Becerra’s defense of unity behind Pelosi is more damning than commendatory. They have lost three cycles in a row, including one in which their party’s President won re-election, and House Democrats clearly have no Plan B in mind. Becerra and the majority of Democrats still left in the House seem content to keep marching off the progressive cliff under repeatedly failing leadership. Republicans may have their own significant issues, but it seems their best allies are across the aisle, positioning themselves to provide the GOP a generational majority.