Thursday, December 08, 2016

Nancy Pelosi = Bob Michel? Maybe... But The House Dems Have No Newt To Save Them


Robert Michel (R-IL) was in Congress for 38 years, starting when I was a pre-teen. And he was After serving as Minority Whip for half a dozen years, he became Minority Leader in 1981 and was finally ousted in 1995, completely changing the fortunes of the utterly pathetic House Republicans. Before Congress, Michel had served as an infantryman during World War II, earning two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and 4 battle stars. But getting rid of Michel, a decent, old school Peoria gentleman, breathed new life into the GOP. For the entire 38 years he served in Congress-- employing the same failed strategies and tactics over and over and over-- the GOP was never the majority party. That changed-- and in a really big way-- as soon as they, painfully, put Michel out to pasture. I say "painfully," because he came under withering attack from his own party's far right, led by... a slick hustler: Newt Gingrich. By the early 90s Gingrich and other Republican extremists, tired of being irrelevant started attacking Michel as a weak and ineffective compromiser who just wanted to get along with the Democrats, play golf with them and never fight hard for Republican ideals.

Gingrich was seen as a "bomb-thrower" but more and more House Republicans were rallying to his standard and Michel decided to not seek reelection in the 1994 midterms, ceding party leadership to Gingrich and his aggressive right-wing agenda. That year the Republicans swept into power, winning 54 Democratic seats and taking over the House for the first time since 1952, even defeating House Speaker Tom Foley as well as several senior committee chairmen. Gingrich became Speaker and the GOP remained in power until the Democrats stumbled into a very short-lived majority in 2006.

Since 2010 Pelosi-Michel comparisons have been something Democrats whisper about. almost all the overt criticism of her leadership comes from the right, from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the Blue Dogs and New Dems, who hate her for her progressive instincts however faded). Tim Ryan, obviously, was no Newt Gingrich. In fact, the spineless House Democrats don't have anyone willing to stand up to Pelosi except much worse alternatives (again, Blue Dogs and New Dems), who want to move the party in far worse directions than Pelosi has steered it. Younger leaders who she's taken under her wing to groom for party leadership-- particularly Chris Van Hollen and Xavier Becerra-- have grown tired of waiting for her to move on. It was like being a prince of England under Elizabeth II. Last year Van Hollen said "screw it" and ran for an open Senate seat and last month Becerra took an appointment as California Attorney General, widely seen as a stature-raising stepping stone for the Feinstein Senate seat.

Now the House Democrats have only the dimmest of possible prospects for the post-Pelosi/Hoyer era: corrupt garbage conservatives like New Dem chief Joe Crowley and Congress' most universally hated-Democrat: Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Hoyer has been training two rot-gut right-wing Blue Dogs for leadership positions: Kyrsten Sinema, who has the worst voting record of any Democrat returning to Congress next year, and Illinois reactionary and Rahm Emanuel protégée Cheri Bustos.

Pelosi has the 25th ProgressivePunch lifetime crucial vote score (93.80). Among the two dozen Democrats with better voting records, almost all of them all also extremely old-- many tired and jaded-- and some of the younger ones not showing any real leadership abilities and inclinations. Mark Pocan from Madison may be the one bright exception, although it's reasonable to root for Judy Chu (CA) and Karen Bass (CA) to step on the gas a little as well. Another hope for future-- and not distant-- leadership is Ted Lieu. Like Pocan, Chu and Bass, Lieu is no bomb-thrower of a Gingrich variety and I don't see him ever leading a much-needed revolt against a worn-out Pelosi. Yesterday's New York Times included a somewhat fatuous piece, The Next Class of California Political Leaders and the only member of Congress they included was Lieu. They pointed out that one of the most alarming factors facing the Democrats today is that their leaders are all relics, although they politely called it "a paucity of younger Democrats" but claim California is a bright spot where there is "a generational renewal" as "Gov. Jerry Brown, 78; Senator Barbara Boxer, 76; Senator Dianne Feinstein, 83; and Nancy Pelosi, the house minority leader, who is 76 approach the end of their public careers."
This new class of Democratic leaders seems likely to reshape the political face of California for a generation. But for national Democrats, they also represent a potential talent pool of leaders who can help pull the party out of the worst crisis it has faced since 2005, the last time the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. California also stands ready to become a laboratory for Democratic policy that, it seems fair to say, will have little chance for enactment in Washington, at least for the next two years.

There may be no more Democratic state than California in this new Trump era. This election delivered the party two-thirds control of both houses of the Legislature, in addition to control of all statewide elected officials. And Democrats here stand in stark contrast in terms of ideology and demographics to Mr. Trump and his followers.

That has been particularly clear this week in Sacramento, where the Democratic leaders of the Assembly and Senate-- Kevin de Leon, the president of the Senate, and Anthony Rendon, the leader of the Assembly-- introduced legislation intended to thwart any effort by Mr. Trump to crack down on immigration.

...Both Mr. Rendon and Mr. de Leon are viewed as part of this new class of leaders. They are also Latino, like many of the elected officials on the list below. Latinos now make up 40 percent of the state’s population. In the latest sign of their rising influence here-- and presumably nationally, at least at some point-- Mr. Brown appointed Representataive Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles as attorney general, succeeding Kamala Harris, who was elected last month to fill Ms. Boxer’s position in the Senate.
Among the bright-spots the Times pointed to were L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (45), state Senate leader Kevin de León (49), Becerra, the still completely unproven Kamala Harris (52), the much-disliked slimy corporate whore Gavin Newsom (49) and, of course, Lieu (47), a nose-to-the-grindstone legislative powerhouse who is committed to accomplishing the agenda that drew him to public service-- ameliorating Climate Change, protecting civil liberties, fighting for equal opportunities for working families... Problem with younger people, like Lieu? I hope I'm not speaking out of school here but I begged him to run for DCCC chairman and he turned me down flat because he has-- as people his age tend to-- two young sons, Brennan and Austin, who he is committed to spending real time with, something that would be impossible to do and simultaneously be a winning DCCC chairman. Alas, being a winning DCCC chair isn't something that has probably ever crossed the mind off Ben Ray Luján (44 and a bachelor), since he-- even more so than Bob Michel or Nancy Pelosi-- only knows the rut of losing and losing and losing; he was instructed by Steve Israel, expert in nothing but losing-- and kept the losinest team in town, the corrupt and incompetent DCCC staff.

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At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

Let's hope some leaders with real charisma show up. I was so disappointed (and surprised) that Russ Feingold lost in Wisconsin.

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly, the corporatist media is already stomping all over any chance the Democrats have to restore themselves to a viable Party by ignoring or denigrating anyone who just might rise to the challenge of restoring the Party of FDR. Because the DLC is still essentially in control of the DNC, one can expect that they will kick the f'n hippies of the Professional Left to the curb as the Party leaders assist the Republicans in destroying what remains of the United States so that corporatism can take over the world.

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't judge a "party" "leader" just by the votes, especially in the house where cloture isn't an issue.
Since leadership entails, first and foremost, fundraising, you must look at that closely, which means looking at to whom the "party" is beholden and for how much.

Thus, you see why Pelosi promotes fucktard fascists and forbids progressives running for seats all over the country; and picks winners and losers by funding or not funding races.

For the "party" to fix itself, the challenge to Pelosi and everyone else of consequence MUST come from the left. Though someone on the far left may emerge who has charisma, it is impossible to imagine anyone like that doing well in "party" elections until the "statute of limitations" (evidently 4 decades-ish) on losing expires. Factor in the paucity of actual lefties in the "party" and the mechanized guarantees that paucity won't change under current "party" practices to that calculation.

Now you understand why the "party" simply must be put down. But will voters, ever the dumbest in the world, ever kill it?


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