Thursday, February 08, 2018

Who Comes After Pelosi? Almost Certainly Someone Worse-- And Whose Fault Is That?


Did you know the Speaker of the House doesn't even have to be a member of the House, let alone someone who has grown old and decrepit-- not to mention corrupt-- there? I've been trying to persuade some of my friends in Congress to work towards throwing out the seniority system, not just for Speaker and leadership roles, but for everything. It's almost like the House Dems are cemented into place by a version of the Peter Principle. When lo-info voters in WA-05 defeated Tom Foley in 1994 some thought his opponent, George Nethercutt, would become Speaker and never imagined they were putting Georgia bomb-thrower Newt Gingrich into that role. Gingrich, though, like Ryan today, did not slowly rise in the ranks the way Foley had. Foley, who had been first elected to Congress in 1965 became House Majority whip in 1981, House Majority Leader in 1987 and then Speaker in 1989. Gingrich was an interloper. He was elected to Congress in 1978, forced his way into the Minority Whip position in 1989 and became Speaker in 1995. Pelosi had been elected to Congress in 1986, became Minority Whip in 2002, Minority Leader in 2003 and Speaker in 2007. Since losing the House in 2010, she's been Minority Leader. She'll be 78 in a few weeks. Her 2nd in command, Steny Hoyer, will be 79 in June.

The House Democratic caucus is like a geriatric ward. It doesn't have to be like that. Ted Lieu was elected to Congress in 2014. Can you imagine him as Speaker? Before Congress he was in the California state Senate and before that in the Assembly. He was-- still is-- an Air Force Colonel. He's not on the leadership path, which, conventionally is thought to include doddering K Street whore Steny Hoyer and Wall Street whore Joe Crowley, who's never been in a contested election (or primary) in his life. (At least Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been eliminated from contention after she was caught up in several scandals-- whew!)

And I'm not here to make a case for Lieu per se, although he'd be my top pick if I had a vote. There are several amazing members of the House with fantastic leadership skills, who are considered too "young" (too unsullied by the system) to be seriously considered: Pramila Jayapal (WA), Mark Pocan (WI), Jamie Raskin (MD), Ro Khanna (CA)...

Yesterday a couple of Politico reporters decided to imagine what would happen if Team Pelosi manages to lose the Midterms again and Pelosi is finally forced out, as she should have been in 2010. They forsee her leaving but not the even worse rotgut members of her leadership team. Dramatically, they wrote that "A stealthy discussion is already underway within the Democratic Caucus, particularly among members whose only experience in Congress is in the minority. Assuming Pelosi either leaves on her own or is pressured to step down, her exit would trigger a messy battle between the party’s old guard, led by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and the party’s younger members, represented by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY). It’s a generational showdown that's been put off for years, but one that Democrats might not be able to be avoid much longer." Crowley, formerly the head of the New Dems and the Republican wing the Democratic Party may be a relatively spry 56, but he's the most blatantly corrupt member of the congressional caucus, the most conservative in the leadership and the least intelligent, none which matters at all in selecting leaders among House Democrats. And speaking of corrupt members of the House, Bresnahan and Caygle went straight to doddering jailbait Alcee Hastings (D-Payday Lenders) for his outlook: "It will be an intraparty war. That's what you can expect," predicting a "mass exodus" of Democrats if they don't win the House in November. "That's at the highest levels of leadership and at the committee level."

That sounds attractive. "A shakeup at the top of the Democratic Caucus is also likely to set off a scramble further down the leadership chain as members clamor for spots that haven’t been open, or whose occupants have been hand-picked by Pelosi-- for years." Unfortunately, progressives inside the caucus are disorganized and weak and the New Dems are the dominant role. They would take over the whole kit and caboodle. The most ambitious young members are all conservatives, any of them absolutely horrible: Tim Ryan, Ann Rice, Seth Moulton, Cheri Bustos, Jim Himes, Denny Heck, Adam Schiff, Joaquin Castro... each one rated "F" by ProgressivePunch-- except Castro and Schiff, each of whom has a "D."
The ongoing conversations about the future of the party’s leadership come as members set off Wednesday for their retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a three-day confab in which Crowley, as caucus chairman, will play a prominent role, alongside Pelosi and Hoyer.

In interviews with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides, most on the condition of anonymity in order to freely discuss sensitive caucus dynamics, a clear divide emerged. Most of those interviewed agreed Pelosi would have to step down or face a certain-- and very credible-- challenge for her post.

Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a close Pelosi ally who occupies the third rung in party leadership, also faces questions about his future. Many Democrats expect him to leave when Pelosi exits. As the most prominent African-American member of the Democratic Caucus, Clyburn has significant pull among the women and minorities, who make up more than half the caucus.

Pelosi’s allies maintain that if or when she leaves is up to her, noting that she generally does not telegraph her political moves.

“Leader Pelosi is singularly focused on winning back the House for Democrats. The leader is not here on a shift, but on a mission,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.

But if Pelosi goes, lawmakers say the race for the top slot would come down to a choice between Hoyer and Crowley.

Hoyer's faction of supporters point to the stability he’d bring after more than 15 years in the deputy spot. These Democrats feel that Hoyer has more than paid his dues and deserves the brass ring.
That's exactly the opposite of what the House Democraps need-- more of the same... but worse. "Hoyer," they pointed out, "has deep roots within the caucus, is known for giving new members opportunities through his whip operation and building relationships that go back years, important bona fides for anyone who wants to be elected leader. Unlike Pelosi, who has long been vilified by Republicans for what they call her “out of touch San Francisco values,” Hoyer can campaign in nearly any district, his allies point out. And Hoyer has done the political work, including hundreds of fundraisers, that come with the party leader post. Members remember those debts." Problem: he mostly campaigns for corrupt conservatives who often lose and make monkeys of themselves, like Tim Mahoney (FL), Tim Holden (PA), Al Wynn (MD), Wasserman Schultz (FL) and, most recently, Jason Crow, an attorney who spent his career defending payday lenders against the people they ripped off. “Obviously there’s no heir apparent here as far as of a line of succession is concerned,” said one Democrat who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Steny is beloved within the caucus, and he’s a member’s member and has been terrific. But there’s also generational rumblings going on, too.” He gives everyone money he gets from corporate interests and lobbyists most members are embarrassed to take directly.
On the other side, lawmakers in the change camp argue that replacing one longtime leader with another, both in their late 70s, isn’t going to help Democrats win back the majority. If Democrats fail to take the House, they say, it would be time for a wholesale change at the top-- including Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn.

While several members said they believe Crowley would make a run for the top post, whether against Pelosi or Hoyer, the New York Democrat wasn’t ready to declare his candidacy when approached by Politico.

“I believe in the wisdom of the caucus,” Crowley said when asked whether he would run for minority leader if Democrats lose the House.

Some Democrats say the party should consider options beyond Hoyer or Crowley if they fail to win in November. They say there may be a push to have a person of color lead the caucus, instead of choosing between two white men who are similar in their politics, they said.

But as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, a prominent position just below the top three leaders, Crowley is in the best position to challenge Hoyer in November.

“I think some leaders pushing 80 think they are the future, and it’s laughable. And I think they are in for a big surprise, because most of us are ready for a real change and new leadership,” said another House Democrat, referring to Hoyer's age. He described that sentiment as “deep and widespread.”

“The issue is not even about personalities. It’s about the future versus the past.”
Exactly... and that takes us back to people like Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan... The future is not just about age; it's also about outlook. Who, for example, aggressively backs policies attractive to millennials and who is rooted in the '70s and '80s the politics of defensive fear? Which members have something to offer young voters aside from wanting to take a next step in their career trajectory?

Meanwhile Chris Lehmann addressed one member who everyone would be thinking of in a House leadership role if he weren't already on Senate and President track, Joe "Born This Way" Kennedy III: The Reboot of the Elites-- "Democrats’ reflex: when they go low, we go upper crust." Lehmann doesn't think the party knows what it's doing. Yes, welcome to the party.
Handed a golden opportunity to deliver a forward-looking message in response to a lackluster state of the union address by the least popular first-term president in modern history, lead strategists and consultants for our notional party of the people did what they always do: they coughed up the heir to an exhausted liberal-managerial brand, to assure a vast nationwide viewing audience that theirs is the American political franchise terminally resistant to new ideas.

Not that Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy III’s rhetoric or broad policy dictums were all that objectionable on their own terms. It’s good, and necessary, to sound a note of inclusion and compassion in the face of the racist slanders and authoritarian commands of Trumpism-- and Kennedy was capable enough in delivering that very anodyne message and hitting his capaciously designated mark.

No, the designation of a third-generation scion of an insular dynastic clan as a “rising star” of the opposition party represents a deeper structural disorder—one that’s disfigured the Democrats’ anemic national strategizing for the better part of a generation. For the keepers of liberal consensus to rally to a global mood of populist discontent with a political brand name steeped in the New Frontier social mythology of the mid-twentieth-century is like trying to extinguish a prairie fire with a series of Scotch and gin shipments. It’s also to indulge a key Democratic myth that has long passed its plausible sell-by date: that as the party of our new digital managerial class, the Democrats are the country’s true and proper keepers of the credentials for legitimate political leadership.

In this context, the misguided selection of Kennedy as the future-of-the-party respondent to President Trump’s State of the Union speech last week is more than a passing one-off tactical error. It represents, rather, a full-blown social philosophy, one that carelessly assigns power on the basis of socio-economic networking, and imagines its lead exponents as the only body of gatekeepers who can channel populist discontent into reasoned social deference. Among other things, the leadership-by-dynastic-prerogative model is a poor look for a party that’s desperately trying to convey a unified message of social inclusion.

...[F]or a party locked out of the meaningful exercise of power in virtually every level of government, a sudden onrush of inexperienced and ideological candidates with a shot at actually gaining power is a rather good problem to have. It’s particularly so, in view of the stubborn obstacles to activist fundraising and participation that the Democratic Party’s leadership caste has deliberately erected to discourage non-establishment candidacies that threaten the party’s dominant, bought-out business model. But that is to suppose that, for this cohort of D.C. apparatchik, ideology and substantive governance might, you know, matter.

...[O]ne of the most tirelessly flogged talking points among the Clinton wing of party sachems is that Sanders has no purchase on the party’s legitimate attention because the man is actually not a Democrat at all, but an independent caucusing with the party. In other words, like these spittle-flecked insurgent candidates in the 2018 cycle, Bernie Sanders simply lacks the proper credentials to be taken seriously. Greeting a grassroots insurgency among energized young voters with this sort of door-slamming petulance is very much like appointing Woody Allen as the headmaster of a girls’ academy: a willful subordination of urgent ends to complacent means that verges on criminal malpractice.

This mind-bendingly myopic and insular response to populist dissent is how the Democrats’ supremely cynical GOP opponents were able to carry off the Big Lie of nominating and electing a tax-cutting billionaire populist to the presidency. Democrats have increasingly come to envision a political system that delivers power on the basis of professional status, which in turn all but guarantees that ardent neoliberals tend overwhelmingly to come into their own political convictions much as Joseph Kennedy III has: as a matter of class inheritance.

And just as in our esteemed Ivy League universities, all the jargon of meritocratic achievement that accompanies this brand of social power cedes in a heartbeat to the familiar specter of legacy admissions-- or a dynastic political brand, as the case may be. In both academia and politics, the wifty rhetoric of the careful, high-professional modulation of reason and merit disguises the bald exercise of privilege for privilege’s sake.

To put things mildly, things were not ever thus in the Democratic Party. The Democrats’ great modern founder, Franklin Roosevelt, was indeed a proud traitor to an aristocratic governing legacy-- and went on to lay the groundwork for both widely distributed middle-class prosperity in America and majoritarian Democratic governance for the better part of forty years. While Roosevelt himself famously attended Harvard in the company of his doting mother, his successor in office, Harry Truman, was the last American president to rule without benefit of a college diploma. Just imagine the righteous conniptions that would trigger among today’s Democratic governing caste, and their pious enablers at the Brookings Institution.

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At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said 'democraps' again. (snicker)

You omitted the method used to select the democrap leadershit. You remember... the one who trowels the most bribe money amongst the caucus gets 'elected' to the leadershit positions.

For your guy, Lieu, to become a 'leader', he'd have to hit the powerball once per quarter... or spend a "Pelosi" amount of time on his back with rich contributors (with the requisite quid pro quo) and lather up the caucus with his loot.

And THAT, above all else, is why the democraps cannot be fixed from the bottom up.

The only thing that will get dormant D voters back is results. Not words but deeds. Not corruption that spreads but principles that are kept. And this democrap party will NEVER appreciate just how much disgust their path of the last 38 years has inspired. Were the republicans the same as they were in 1978, we would have a true one-party rule and the democraps would have gone extinct by '88.

The money has orchestrated a massive Doppler shift to the right of BOTH so-called 'parties'. The ONLY fix for that is for voters to abandon the parties of the right and coalesce around a new left paradigm.

Sadly, the money has also invested massively and wisely in pogroms to make voters stupid and pavlovian. The greatest achievement in fomenting mass insanity in the history of humankind.

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rest assured! The party "super delegates" will see to it that the future direction doesn't change no matter which "inner tent" hack runs the con game.

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, 9:40. all policy flows directly from the money. the names on the plaques don't matter at all.


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