Crowley’s loss will do more than instill the fear of God into Democratic members for years to come. It also leaves Democrats without a likely successor to Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Crowley was waiting patiently, in the event that Democrats won the majority but Pelosi could not cobble together 218 floor votes for the speakership. He was the last one standing from a generation of members who waited, fruitlessly, to ascend in the House after the Pelosi-Hoyer era—think of Rahm Emanuel, Chris Van Hollen, and Xavier Becerra—and now Crowley is gone, too, and not even for a new job.
In the short term, Pelosi may have crossed another potential challenger off of her list, but the bigger picture can’t be good for the existing Democratic leadership structure. Crowley, for all his accumulated power, just got taken out on the mantra of generational change. This presents an argument, for Pelosi’s detractors in the conference, that the rest of the leadership should follow suit.