Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pelosi, The Fate Of The Democratic Party... Stuff Like That


When people ask about Republican gains in generic polls I always point to Republican losses in deep red legislative districts in Missouri, Oklahoma, Florida, Wisconsin...-- what Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracy reported as a potential harbinger of the legendary blue wave in the 2018 midterms that could rob of the G.O.P. of its majority in the House—and possibly, the Senate. Get ready for a big reversal of fortune next month. On Trump's electoral toxicity, she wrote that "since he ascended to the Oval Office, Donald Trump has maintained a vice-like grip on the base of the Republican Party. And yet, while Trump’s popularity has largely proven to be non-transferable, his flagging approval rating-- which, despite a recent uptick, is still hovering in the low 40s-- augurs suppressed Republican turnout and heightened energy on the left in the midterms. So Republican candidates are facing an impossible strategic choice, one that is to some degree independent of the president’s approval rating or any economic factor: tack toward Trump, and potentially lose the center, or forgo Trumpian red meat and watch the base stay home."
“What you do when you appeal to that 33 percent is you peel off another 50 percent of the voters who will go, ‘Fuck you, I will crawl over broken glass to vote against you because you are a goddamn Donald Trumper,’” Rick Wilson, a G.O.P. strategist and vocal Never Trumper, told me, adding that without Clinton, Trump “has to stand on his own two feet.” And although Trump won’t be on the ballot in 2018, every Republican candidate this fall will be viewed as a Trump proxy. Meanwhile, Democrats will have the luxury of focusing their energy elsewhere. “They get to do that because they’re out of power. That’s a big advantage to them,” the Republican strategist told me. “They let the national environment take care of it and they run on issues that are local and important.”

...A string of Democratic upsets in conservative strongholds in special elections since the New Year have opened G.O.P. eyes to the challenge. Last month, Democrat Patty Schachtner secured a nine-point victory in a contentious battle for a state Senate seat in Wisconsin’s 10th District, which Mitt Romney and Trump won by 6 points and 17 points, respectively. Trygve Olson, a G.O.P. strategist who previously managed campaigns in the district, warned on Twitter, “A wave is coming . . . This a suburban-rural district. If the G.O.P. is losing WI-10 lookout!” Even Republican Governor Scott Walker took to Twitter to express his concern about the seat flip. “Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin,” he wrote.

Republicans were similarly rattled by the Democratic performance in two Missouri special election races. Democrat Mike Revis edged out his opponent by three points in Missouri’s 97th District, which Trump won by 28 points and Romney won by 12 points. Strategists have also noted a trio of elections for bellwether seats in Florida-- the state’s 40th Senate District in Miami-Dade, the St. Petersburg’s mayoral race, and Florida’s 72nd House District-- in which Democrats triumphed. “This is beyond a trend. The results are in. Republicans have a real problem in this state,” Tom Eldon, a Democratic pollster who surveyed the race, told Politico.

...While the political environment may seem primed for a blue wave in the fall, anti-Trump sentiment alone won’t be enough to flip the House. And, fortunately for Republicans, Democrats have struggled to coalesce around a party message. “The mood might help get a few points, but you still have to close the deal on things that are important in your own communities,” Schale said in reference to tight Congressional races, drawing on Jon Ossoff’s special congressional election loss in Georgia as evidence of the limits of anti-Trump enthusiasm on the left. “One of the reasons he lost was he was just another guy who happened to be a Democrat. . . . Ossoff, for all the money he raised, is still a young guy who didn’t have a lot of currency in the district and the race turned on national issues. That wasn’t good enough to close the deal.”
The Republicans are literally running millions of dollars of TV ads in southwest Pennsylvania against Conor Lamb. Lamb outraised Saccone $557,551 to $214,675 but that's chump change in this super-nationalized race. Trump's SuperPAC, Ryan's SuperPAC, the NRCC's SuperPAC and a couple of Dark Money neo-fascist operations-- 45 Cmte and Ending Spending-- financed by anti-American billionaires have flooded the airwave with ads trying to persuade PA-18 voters that Conor Lamb, an inept, nearly worthless Ossoff-like candidate is just Nancy Pelosi in a man's suit. The DCCC has already fled the field and not a single ad has run tying Saccone to the even more unpopular Paul Ryan.

Last week, writing for The Atlantic, Russell Berman asked if the GOP's successful demonization of Pelosi will be what prevents the Democrats from taking back the House. "[A] small group of restive Democrats is gunning for Pelosi," he wrote. "They’re maneuvering in public, and recruiting support behind the scenes, to force her departure. They want to set off a generational shift for Democrats that they believe is long overdue. And their efforts-- joined to the familiar attacks from Republicans, who have made them the linchpin of their bid to retain the House-- are calling Pelosi’s political future into question just as she sits on the cusp of regaining power... If Pelosi’s considerable talents and accomplishments are undeniable, so is her enduring unpopularity."
Pelosi has been a favorite piñata for Republicans from the moment she stepped onto the national stage. The formula of tying just about any Democratic congressional candidate to Pelosi’s record, words, or merely an unflattering image of her face may be stale, but that Republicans keep coming back to it election after election is evidence that it’s effective. Pelosi’s Democratic critics quickly blamed Jon Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia on that tried-and-true tactic. “Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons,” Representative Filemon Vela of Texas said at the time.

And like an army gift-wrapping its battle plans and air-dropping them over enemy lines, Republicans have told Democrats exactly what’s coming this fall. Their ads against Conor Lamb, the candidate running in the next hotly contested House special election in Pennsylvania in March, have starred Pelosi-- despite the fact that Lamb has vowed not to vote for her. “She’s our secret weapon,” Trump let slip during a speech in Ohio, drawing knowing laughter from the crowd. “I just hope they don’t change her. There are a lot of people that want to run her out.”

Pelosi’s allies see a barely-concealed sexism in the Republican strategy, and they argue that it’s no more or less effective than any effort to demonize a political leader. As far back as 1980, Republicans ran ads targeting then-Speaker Tip O’Neill. Democrats did the same to Newt Gingrich, and they’re likely to try to take aim this fall at Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who polls show are just as widely reviled as Pelosi, if not more.

To a greater degree than presidential candidates, congressional leaders have their public image defined by their political opponents. Their job is less to inspire than to govern, to translate lofty promises into tough compromises. There are no gauzy ad campaigns on their behalf to counter the attack ads or tout their personal accomplishments; voters outside San Francisco rarely see Pelosi in soft focus, as a mother of five and a grandmother of six. “Maybe she should have launched a more aggressive personal public relations campaign to create an image,” Lawrence said. “But I don’t really think that’s important to her.”

In private, Pelosi tends to shrug off the attacks. She’ll flick at her shoulder as if swatting away a fly. “I’ve never seen her upset by it,” Lawrence told me. “She’s been in this business since she was in sundresses in grammar school. She understands the nature of this business. She’s very unsentimental about the business of politics.”

...There has been an undercurrent of Democratic discontent with Pelosi for years. When the party was in the majority, it generally came from Blue Dogs, who fretted that her liberal image was toxic in their conservative districts. Others chafed at her centralized leadership style. Now, however, the opposition is more generational, coming from a cadre of more vocal members-- Ryan, Moulton, Vela, and Kathleen Rice of New York, among others-- who are younger and in most cases newer to Congress and looking to advance. [Berman was probably unaware that they are also all conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, esp[ecially Long Island slime-bucket Kathleen Rice, one of the most venal Democrats in Congress.]

In interviews over the last several weeks, they acknowledged Pelosi’s strengths and accomplishments, conceding that she was not wholly to blame for the constant barrage of GOP attacks against her. But, these Democrats say, Pelosi sometimes makes it too easy for Republicans by bungling the party’s message or by making an offhand remark that goes awry. They winced when, during an appearance in November on Meet the Press, she referred to Representative John Conyers as “an icon” while the party was trying to get the long-serving Michigan Democrat to resign following allegations of sexual harassment. Rice said Pelosi’s comments “ceded the moral high ground” and set women and the Democratic Party back “decades.”

More recently, Republicans have mocked Pelosi’s arguably over-the-top rhetoric about their new tax law, which she compared to “Armageddon” in the days before it passed Congress. When Pelosi dismissed as “crumbs” the $1,000-plus bonuses and tax cuts going to the middle class, the GOP quickly put the comment in ads characterizing her as out-of-touch with working people.

 “Great leaders know when it’s time to step aside, and I obviously have been calling for her leadership team to step aside,” Rice told me. “I think it would be advantageous to us if that were made clear before the election.”

Pelosi, she told me, “has her reasons for staying, but at some point, it’s up to the caucus to decide.”

Privately, however, Pelosi’s critics in the caucus are far less diplomatic.

“For us to go into this election with her as our leader is absolute insanity,” one House Democrat told me on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about Pelosi. “No one in their right mind would think this is a good idea. I just think she is putting her own personal interests in front of the caucus’s. And if we don’t win the House back, it is going to be because of her. These districts are hard enough to overcome, and to overcome with an anchor around our neck is political malpractice.”

In an effort to force the issue, this member of Congress is personally advising Democratic candidates to say that they won’t vote for Pelosi as speaker. If enough potential majority-makers rule out supporting her in the crucial first vote on the House floor, she would effectively have no path back to the speaker’s chair.

So far, however, just two Democratic candidates in competitive districts have done so: Lamb in Pennsylvania, and Paul Davis, a former gubernatorial nominee who is running for an open seat in Kansas.

Among more junior House Democrats, there is frustration not only with Pelosi but with the entire senior leadership team, including Hoyer, 78, and Clyburn, 77, who have blocked the paths of younger, ambitious members for more than a decade. Some of them are pushing for the party to join Republicans in adopting term limits for top committee slots, a sore spot for veterans in the Congressional Black Caucus for whom the color-blind seniority system was once the only assured way to accumulate power in Congress.

Pelosi’s allies tend to dismiss her internal critics as a small-but-vocal chorus of attention-seekers. But in the fall, a member of her leadership team broke ranks: Representative Linda Sanchez of California, who as vice chairwoman of the caucus is the fifth-ranking House Democrat. In an appearance on C-SPAN, she called for each of the top three-- Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn-- to transition out. “They are all of the same generation, and, again, their contributions to the Congress and the caucus are substantial,” Sanchez said. “But I think there comes a time when you need to pass that torch. And I think it’s time.”

Then there is the freighted question of who might replace Pelosi whenever she does step aside.

Hoyer, her former rival, has long wanted a shot at the top spot, and he has given no indication of having given up on that goal. He is well-regarded across the caucus and has defeated challengers before, but he’s a year older than Pelosi, more moderate politically, and would be an odd choice for a party that has grown more diverse and moved farther to the left in the last decade. In the event that Pelosi steps down, Democrats close to Hoyer view him as someone with the necessary experience to serve as a bridge to the next generation of party leaders, according to a Democrat familiar with those conversations. Whether the caucus would go along with that kind of transitional plan, however, is unclear.

The top contenders now figure to include Sanchez and Representative Joseph Crowley of New York, a Queens powerbroker who is chairman of the caucus. Both have made no secret of their desire to move up, and Crowley briefly considered challenging Pelosi in 2016. The same goes for Ryan and Moulton, who have also not ruled out long-shot bids for president in 2020. Representative Adam Schiff of California is another possibility, having used his post as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee to become the party’s leading voice on the Russia investigation and a fixture on cable news-- and drawing Trump’s ire in the process. Schiff also owes his newfound prominence almost entirely to Pelosi, who as party leader had sole discretion to elevate him on the committee.
Again, no mention that Crowley is the single most corrupt Democrat in Congress-- the conduit for Wall Street bribes to the caucus-- as well as the former leader of the right-wing New Dems. Adam Schiff, after his district was redrawn to include seriously left-wing parts of L.A. (Hollywood, Silverlake, West Hollywood and Los Feliz) gave up his membership in the Blue Dogs and became a nearly as conservative rotten New Dem. Members who serve with Moulton in committee tell me it's like serving with a Republican.

I've been very critical of Pelosi for a very long time. Is she better than Hoyer, Crowley, Rice, Moulton, Ryan, Schiff? Yes, a million times better. Why is it that the mainstream media always talks about garbage members as possible replacements? Why not Mark Pocan? Why not Ted Lieu? Why not Pramila Jayapal? Why not Ro Khanna? Who feeds these shitbag congressmembers to the media as the only choices if Pelosi retires? Thank God they at least stopped talking about Wasserman Schultz as an heir.

Gaius sometimes reads these posts before they get published. Now and then he suggests fixes to outrageous typos, Today he suggested something more important: "I would ask, why is it that none of the congressmembers named above is putting her or his name 'out there'-- in bold Sanders-like fashion-- as a caucus choice? Of course they won't win. But popular opinion can't coalesce around a hat that's never in the ring, that's always waiting for 'just the right time'? Worse, it makes these progressives seem compliant, or careerist, or frightened. Makes it look from the outside that 'bold progressives' may never think it's the right time to openly challenge for Party leadership. If people ever get that idea, support for them will fall."

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At 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow, the fact that there is a push for a "generational shift" in Party leadership doesn't light my fire, for I don't know who is part of this push and where they stand on the real issues. Somehow, I suspect that those in position to be a part of this push are only out for the money and won't lift a finger to change things any more than Pelosi has. "We're all capitalists here!"

At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If Pelosi’s considerable talents and accomplishments are undeniable, so is her enduring unpopularity."

you mean accomplishments like losing the house in the throes of the 2008 crash? Of whoring for massive amounts of corporate money? Of buying her leadershit position by peanut-buttering the caucus with her whoring income? Of her sworn refusal to honor her oath of office? Of the vast chasm between what she says (in the rare instances when she is coherent) vs what she does?

You think her unpopularity among those on the left might be fucking well EARNED?

It goes without saying that the hate on the right is purely due to the fact that she has no penis.

The answer to Gaius' question is pretty obvious. A progressive throwing his hat in the ring would be pointless and probably spell political suicide. There are only about 5 progressive members of that caucus -- maybe a couple more after '18 -- and they all fear a massively funded primary challenge that Pelosi/hoyer/... would surely mount should any of them try to tip the DC democrap mint over from below.

Whether the caucus leadershit is held by Pelosi, hoyer, cliburn or any of the rest more senior than the few progressives, there will be no change. The cash flow will never abate until the money is certain that the party is not worth keeping in the pink any longer. And the longer the democraps stay the same, the less they will feel the need to pay attention to pretense.

The irony is, as with the republicans, the democraps will be both more corrupt but also more honest about it.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

"[Hoyer] would be an odd choice for a party that has grown more diverse and moved farther to the left in the last decade."

Seriously? "Moved farther to the left"? That right there is sufficient explanation of why all the Pelosi alternatives are corporate shills. It's a puff piece designed to once again ensure potential voters don't know there are progressives both elected and working on it.

If the "blue wave" fails in November, it will be for one reason—a successful campaign to assign all progressive candidates to the same media blackout used on Bernie Sanders.

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, EB. I confess to hitting the line I quoted and just skimmed from there. Your quoted line was even more egregiously wrong.

The difference in this past decade (since 2010 anyway) is the democraps are electorally irrelevant, so they can SAY progressive things and fool the idiots who vote. But whenever pu$h comes to $hove, plenty of them cross over to make sure the money's desires are satisfied. Joe Manchin comes to mind. There are dozens of others.

Should the DxCCs screw the pooch and the ANTI_RED (not blue) wave sweep them into a majority, you'll see the words met with opposite actions at the same, 100% rate we saw in 2009-2010.


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