Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Speaker is Giving Steny Hoyer a Schooling 


-by Doug Kahn

Nancy Pelosi may end up backing Steny Hoyer for Minority Whip. Until she does, and we’ll know when she makes a public statement about it, Steny is twisting in the wind. This is justice; over the past 2 years, that’s the way he has supported the Speaker on tough issues. He waits a few days or a week, then makes a tepid public statement declaring his decision.  

He has relentlessly sandbagged Nancy Pelosi, and used the Blue Dog gang to do it.
Hoyer is publicly campaigning for the post, indicating weakness, I think. All the quotes in Ryan Grim’s Huffington Post Hill weekend edition, which was mostly devoted to the Democratic caucus contest, were attributed to anonymous Hoyer supporters. It includes a slam of Clyburn as not liberal, despite the fact that most progressives aren’t siding with Hoyer. If they were, he’d already have won.
The Speaker tried to get rid of Hoyer before, and his actions over the past two years don’t tell me there’s any reason for her to change her mind. Hoyer, who still thinks he can be Speaker someday, repeatedly enabled the Blue Dogs over the past session. If Steny is so influential in swing districts, which is one of the arguments being floated to support his continuing in a prominent public role, then he could have gotten them to back the public option. Hoyer may get what he wants here, but he’ll be weaker as a result, have less influence, as a result of the public fight. 

The Next 3 Months Are Crucial

Yes, Steny supported many incumbents who lost. This is one of the reasons the election results from last Tuesday haven’t gotten me down too much. 30 Blue Dogs gone! Do you want the 2012 nominees in those districts to be real Democrats, or Hoyer-supporting Blue Dogs?  

Clearing away an incumbent has its good side. Open primaries give progressive challengers a chance, since they’re speaking to the Democrats in a district, instead of the DCCC and Steny Hoyer. If you’re someone who believes in progress, in the idea that society becomes more humane through the eventual adoption of increasingly progressive policies and institutions (even if it’s two steps forward, one step back), then our candidates need to be leaders first and representatives second.  

This election, analyzed strictly by the numbers, shows the difficulty of convincing the real Democratic base to show up. There’s got to be someone on the ballot who inspires them. And people need to see progress, if we’re expecting them to believe in candidates who advocate change. On health care, what they got instead of a public option was financial punishment if they don’t become customers of a corrupt and inhumanly administered health insurance industry. Which still has an anti-trust exemption. The Republican brand is mistrusted, according to all the polls, but it’s not enough to say you’re against them. 

Our campaigns, the campaigns of progressives running in 2012 primaries, have already started. In the short run, the leadership battle is crucial insofar as it affects the party machinery’s prejudice against progressives, year after year, cycle after cycle. Also, Democrats will lose a substantial number of seats on House Committees and Subcommittees in January, and therefore it’s crucial to keep progressives in those seats, and short the Blue Dogs and their allies. Is Hoyer a plus? I don’t know if Clyburn would be better, but I have trouble believing he could be worse. 

Keeping the Conflict Under Wraps
DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen has been silent, saying the person he supports knows he supports them; of course that means the other guy knows too. It also means that he is supporting one of them. Since Hoyer is leaning on everyone to publicly come out for him, the best he’s getting from Van Hollen is either:

1. Van Hollen supports Hoyer, but refuses to do it in public, or

2. Van Hollen supports Clyburn
The obvious conclusion is that Van Hollen is getting strong pressure from both sides, and perhaps neither side has the contest locked up yet, despite Hoyer’s claims. And whomever wins, Van Hollen hasn’t embarassed himself or disrespected Clyburn or Hoyer in public. That sounds like a good way to act.
Possibly Steny Hoyer does have it locked up. Maybe this public browbeating and bluster is just Steny’s way of settling disputes, which would go a ways toward explaining why he was bested by Nancy Pelosi in the first place. This kind of body language, Steny’s presentation, makes me think of a wide-body with a grocery cart, parked in the middle of a supermarket aisle, unpassable and unavoidable. Maybe Steny has this insistent voice inside him, telling him at every moment that he’s just not making enough noise, not taking up enough space.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Like shutting up. Hoyer is desperate enough to enlist former candidates like Darcy Burner, who ran in 2006 and 2008 against Dave Reichert in WA-8. Darcy is now the President of ProgressiveCongress, a progressive think tank/lobbying group.  Darcy just endorsed Steny, and lectured us on how to win more seats in Congress in 2012 in a post on Huffington Post.

“To win in Republican-leaning districts, candidates are generally going to need party support, validation in the press as credible candidates, and money.” I’ll sum it up for you: we need the unique and incomparable Steny Hoyer to raise money, and travel around the country lending his “credibility” to candidates for Congress! Like he did for Darcy! To which Jim Clyburn might be justified in responding: “And what am I, chopped liver?”
Does Darcy think this is going to make the organization more important? Will this help the progressive agenda her major contributors support, did she ask the board of directors whether she should be taking sides in the leadership competition? Incredible that she should believe that any House member pays attention to what she thinks about Steny Hoyer v. Jim Clyburn. The same goes for any other progressive blogger who starts campaigning for either of them.
This is up to the Speaker. Arguably, a major reason we got anything resembling progressive legislation was because of her. Now that she’s decided to stay, if we owe anyone our loyalty, it would be her, not Hoyer or Clyburn. If we’re going to keep going on about how we need progressive candidates, and Obama can’t move to the middle because it caused the electoral debacle, and the Democratic Party needs to be totally forthright as a progressive force in America, then how is advocating for Hoyer helping? He’s not a progressive. His usefulness is in raising mountains of cash from business interests who want to have some influence on the Democratic caucus.
So you’re going to substitute your judgment for Nancy Pelosi’s? She knows who she wants as Minority Whip, and she’s working behind the scenes to make it happen, and if you don’t get this-- well, I just don’t know what to say. Hoyer is burning bridges with this public campaign, obviously, so it should be clear he’s in a desperate situation. That desperate situation is this: if he loses, he can forget about ever being Speaker. It’s a personal situation, not a principled stand for a unified caucus or a big-tent party or whatever twaddle his supporters are coming up with. 

The fact that Pelosi is campaigning in silence is not only an indication of strength, it’s the best way of not embarassing the members who must, for one reason or another, oppose her. Have we not learned this from the battles over health care and cap and trade etc.? Pelosi counted her votes (with the help of Clyburn, the whip, just by the way), told certain members they could vote no, and then publicly stated she hadn’t ‘released’ anyone to vote no; this in order to prevent them from looking weak, that is, taking favors from the Speaker. I guess that’s what leadership in the House of Representatives is supposed to look like.  

Please don’t take this as campaigning; it’s just my opinion. If any progressive is saying she’s an effective speaker, and I am, then it might be a good thing for that progressive to acknowledge she should have the leadership she wants. And not some blowhard who wants her job. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
Lips are Flapping in D.C. 

From Roll Call:
House Democrats haven't been able to stop campaigning. Rather than spending the days after Tuesday’s midterms regrouping, Members have been stuck fighting over who among them should lead in the minority. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Friday she would stand as Minority Leader, angering moderates who hoped she would step aside and forcing leaders underneath her to mount bids for the remaining leadership positions.
Unattributed, but unnamed “moderates” have been angered by the fact that the Speaker of the House of Representatives thinks she might continue as leader of the Democrats in the House of Representative. Really, the nerve of the woman!
Also from Roll Call:
“This is the last thing we need now,” one Democratic lobbyist said. “Pelosi created this internal strife when she decided to surprise everyone and run for leader. She can demonstrate leadership and help bring this to a quick conclusion. She should tell Hoyer and Clyburn to both go down a notch. And give a gold watch to [Conference Chairman John] Larson. And get it done in the next 24 hours.”
Pelosi “decided to run for leader”???? She decided to run for leader 9 years ago, defeated Hoyer, and she’s still the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Yes Hoyer and his people haven’t given up, they’d like to get rid of her. The alternative is for Hoyer to “demonstrate leadership” and take a demotion. It’s either him or Clyburn. 

From Talking Points Memo:
Meanwhile, Pelosi herself is keeping her cards very close to the vest. Historically she hasn’t had the greatest relationship with Hoyer-- but she certainly didn’t intervene to stop the challenge. However, tellingly, a number of her close allies have backed Hoyer in this race. One Democratic legislator (who predicts that Hoyer will win) points to those allies-- Ed Markey (MA) and Jerrold Nadler (NY)-- as evidence that Pelosi tacitly backs Hoyer.
Again, unattributed. All we have is that “one Democratic legislator... who predicts that Hoyer will win” says there’s “evidence that Pelosi tacitly backs Hoyer.” The media offensive that Hoyer is orchestrating on his candidacy basically claims that he is going to win the job of minority whip; so just assume that this “Democratic legislator” is part of that campaign. The evidence is that “close allies” of the Speaker (which applies to just about any progressive in the House) are backing Hoyer.  

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is co-chaired by Raùl Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey. Both of them support Jim Clyburn. 

Maybe this is just the Speaker managing a vote the way she always does it, behind the scenes, releasing votes she could call in if she wanted to, because she has the majority of votes in hand. That’s the way she manages crucial legislation, like the Energy bill. Since everyone has to work together after this is over with, the kind of public thrashing around that Hoyer is doing is the least preferable way of marshalling support. It’s the strategy that the underdog has to use, by default. Clyburn said on MSNBC this [Monday] morning that he was the underdog, but maybe he isn’t. 

Something Interesting
According to Roll Call on Friday, Pelosi green-lighted John Larson (CT) “a few days ago” to round up votes for reelection to his post as caucus chairman. Larson is a close ally of the Speaker, it is said. Once he started calling colleagues for support, it would have immediately raised the question: “So the Speaker won’t be a candidate for Minority Leader?” (Because if Pelosi did run, it would squeeze Hoyer and Clyburn into a race for the same post.) Her allies would have known she was planning to become Minority Leader, but would have shut up about it. Hoyer’s allies wouldn’t have known, and they were the people surprised by her announcement on Friday. This raises speculation that Pelosi deliberately delayed announcing her intentions in order to put the squeeze on Hoyer. At the very least, it placed him outside of Pelosi’s trusted circle. 

A letter from Jared Polis (CO), purportedly to his colleagues (but actually part of the press offensive), quotes Politico, the National Journal, Roll Call, The Hill, and the Huffington Post. This is supposed to convince House members to support Hoyer? It’s aimed at getting Clyburn to give up, saying Democrats will look bad (to “business groups,” who won’t give to the DCCC) if he doesn’t; because “there will be no unifying force for the caucus;” because it’ll diminish if not destroy the party’s ability to attract strong candidates... in swing districts.” 

Could we just take a look at the people they’re talking about here? The DCCC spent the most money on the worst Democrats in the House. (Don’t tell Nate Silver I said that.) Howie’s take on this can be found in many places, but the following is key: 
The DCCC spent most of its money in this cycle on these 40 Democrats, the ones who voted most frequently against the party’s agenda. In all, the DCCC deployed $65,103,409.58 on Independent Expenditures in around 80 races this year, some of which was spent on the successful special elections for Mark Critz (PA), Scott Murphy (NY) and Bill Owens (NY). Another chunk was spent on open seats (i.e., no incumbents). But when you look at incumbents only, the bulk of the money was spent in support of Bobby Bright ($1,411,243.95), Ann Kirkpatrick ($1,056,844.12), Harry Mitchell ($1,089,932.74), Bill Foster ($1,303,014.50), Baron Hill ($1,376,746.34), Joe Donnelly ($770,760.74), Frank Kratovil ($1,514,468.48), Travis Childers ($966,806.38), Gene Taylor ($156,326.93). Heath Shuler ($231,112.63), Mike McIntyre ($270,224.62), John Adler ($653,865.44), Harry Teague ($488,497.50), Scott Murphy ($686,418.54), Bill Owens ($946,672.85), Mike Arcuri ($1,008,038.47), John Boccieri ($1,449,104.74), Zack Space ($1,512,696.39), Kathy Dahlkemper ($236,852.45), Chris Carney ($606,070.20), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin ($402,595.77), Lincoln Davis ($402,595.77), Glenn Nye ($788,447.63), and Tom Perriello ($593,713.37), all Democrats who voted more frequently with the GOP on the important issues than with the Democrats.
Hoyer’s leadership PAC gave maximum contributions ($10,000 in ‘hard money’) to 66 incumbents and candidates. 47 lost. 

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At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since we're talking about the Speaker, can you explain something to me? I truly don't understand this, and I haven't been able to get a clear answer from Professor Google.

Why do the conservatives hate Nancy Pelosi so much? I could not find any examples in my search of anything she has done to deserve the attacks I see on her. Ok, as the Speaker, she's an easy lightning rod for neocon rage, but has she done anything in particular to make them hate her?

At 3:27 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

She wears a blue t-shirt and she's been relatively effective in thwarting the corporatist schemes of their paymasters who expect results for all they they invest in Republicans. Demonizing Pelosi was a strategy; nothing personal.


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