Democrats have lost vast swaths of the country over the last six years, and Tim Ryan’s challenge to Nancy Pelosi’s perch atop the caucus intended on getting more middle-America voices in Democratic leadership. Pelosi survived by promising more access to leadership positions and more attention to areas outside the coasts. With 15 leadership posts filled, guess how many don’t come from the coastal states that now dominate the House Democratic caucus? Four — and only one comes from the Midwest.


House Democrats are in the midst of a post-election leadership expansion designed largely to amplify the voices of lawmakers in the heartland, where voters flocked to Donald Trump and propped up vulnerable Republicans down the ballot.

But after a series of votes and appointments during the past few days, the party’s leadership structure remains tilted strongly in favor of the coasts, sparking criticism from Midwestern Democrats who feel their voices are too often ignored. …

Pelosi also responded by adding a number of leadership posts — some reserved for junior members — and adopting rules to select those positions by a vote of the full caucus, rather than an appointment from the top.

After several rounds of votes and appointments, however, only four of the top 15 leadership spots are occupied by lawmakers who aren’t in coastal states, and only one of those — Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) — is from the Midwest.

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz lamented that Democrats have a catch-22 in this instance. They have lost so many seats from outside of the coastal states that they have limited options for leadership candidates. As The Hill’s Mike Lillis points out, though, House Democrats aren’t entirely lacking in options. They could have replaced Pelosi with Ryan for starters, who represents an Ohio district that went for Trump in 2016 (according to Ryan himself) despite its D+12 Cook index rating. Lillis points out a number of other names that got left out when the music stopped too, including Debbie Dingell, Steve Cohen, and Matt Cartwright, among others.

Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, called out “an unintentional tendency for a coastal bias.” But how unintentional can it be? The three top leaders of the caucus all come from the coastal states — Pelosi from CA, Steny Hoyer from MD, and James Clyburn from SC. Democrats handed them back their offices for another two years. That’s hardly unintentional; it was a deliberate choice by House Democrats that locks everyone else out of senior leadership.

In exchange for that doubling down on the failed status quo, House Democrats have gotten an expanded bureaucracy and a further emphasis on coastal states and their progressive/elitist ideology. That sounds very similar to what American voters get when they trust House Democrats on “reform,” too.

The esteemed political philosopher Eric “Otter” Stratton gives the best analysis of what happened to House Democrats in their leadership election, regarding their trust in Nancy Pelosi. This would generate some sympathy from the rest of us if it wasn’t the fourth time in a row it’s happened, though (warning: Not Safe for Work language):