Friday, November 12, 2010

Nightmare on Pennsylvania Ave: Pelosi Returns

While everyone has their eyes on the relationship between the Tea Party and the Republican Party, there is a self-inflicted rift brewing on the left side of the isle.

Just weeks after getting their ass handed to them by the American public and losing it's majority in the House, the Democrats are jocking for leadership positions. Unlike the Republicans, who now have a list of chairperson-ships to hand out and seem to be making a relatively smooth transition to power, the Democrats are continuing to be the poster child on how NOT to run a party.

This starts at the top of the "power" chain... Nancy Pelosi

Historically speaking (recent history anyway...not since Sam Rayburn...who can NEVER, EVER be confused with Nancy Pelosi) aside from scandal, or losing in an election, whenever the ruling party gets MOPPED by the opposition, the Speaker of the House steps down from leadership.  But not Nancy.  To the surprise of many in the Democratic Party (and chagrin of others) She has decided to run for Minority Leader.  While the Speaker position is a leadership role within the Party, and is THE leadership position in the entire House, the Majority and Minority Leaders are the heads of their respective parties.  When the House changes over in January, it is assumed that Minority Leader Boehner and Minority Whip Cantor will become Speaker of the House and Majority Leader respectively (this is the path Pelosi took in 2007 after her time as Minority Leader).    The same assumption existed prior to Pelosi making her plans known.  Majority Leader Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn would assume their new roles as Minority Leader and Minority Whip respectively.

Make no mistake, this is NOT a referendum on Pelosi.  However, her announcement has created an internal power struggle.  During the most recent election, Pelosi's played a role in every election for representative in the 2010 elections.  Rightly or Wrongly, Pelosi is not "popular" to the American public.  Along with Harry Ried, the Majority Leader in the Senate, and President Obama, many feel that the Democrats lost the House because Pelosi and Ried aren't popular with the moderates.  It was safe to assume that she would back down, (possibly retire) and allow a new leadership to take over the party and work with the new majority and the President; at a time when the party is reeling and the President has his hands full, this just isn't the time for her to be stubborn.

This could potentially be a battle of heavy weights...

1.) Nancy Pelosi:
Right now, "Pelosi" isn't really a popular name/word in politics right now.  She has a 10% approval rating, and was basically used as a talking point AGAINST Democrats in the last election.  If the Democrats are trying to "sell" their positions to the American Public, it would be prudent for them to find a new face to deliver that message.  HOWEVER, Pelosi is a STRONG personality within Washington politics.  She is from California which boasts 33 Democratic Representatives in the House; the VAST Majority are loyal to Pelosi.  As anyone who is familiar with politics knows, within the state, a person as POWERFUL (and make no mistake, she has power within her political don't become 3rd in the line of succession without power) is not a person to cross or piss off.  While the Republicans HATE her... they hate her because she is strong within her caucus... Most of the Democrats that would vote against her were Blue Dogs...and half of them were just crushed!  She is expected to win Leader pretty easily. 

2.) Steny Hoyer
In the wake of the demise of moderates on BOTH sides of the isle, Hoyer is widely seen as a moderate who can work across the isle, and is seen as someone who the Democrats (and Obama) can "market" to the Democratic moderates and Independents moving forward towards 2012.  Basically, Pelosi has left a bad taste in the mouth of the population, and Hoyer is seen as someone who can improve the image of the party with the increasingly valuable moderates.  So far, 30 representatives, the majority of whom are the remaining Blue Dog Democrats, have signed Hoyer's “Dear Colleague" letter, supporting HIM for Whip. President Obama cruised into office on the strength of Independents and Moderates... if he wants to repeat in 2012... he will need their support.  The Democrats don't want to start by pissing them off.

3.) Jim Clyburn
Being the 3rd highest ranking member in the House (behind the Speaker and Leader) Clyburn is THE highest ranking African American in the House.  This generally means he has the backing of the entire Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).  The CBC has 41 representatives.  In addition to the Independents and Moderates,  President Obama brought an unprecedented black vote, which went for him 98%, in 2008.  It is safe to assume that if the Black Vote comes out in 2012, over 90% would support Obama... the issue is getting them out to vote.  Clyburn losing a leadership position could strike a blow to regaining the energy for 2012.

Three powerhouses... Three important positions  Normally, this is a no-brainer (no pun intended), but this is an unprecedented move by Pelosi who is looking for her 2nd run as Minority Leader.  After Pelosi made her announcement to run for Leader, Clyburn made his announcement to run for Whip.  This puts Hoyer as the odd man out -so far.  You will either have a Hoyer v Pelosi showdown (unlikely) or a Clyburn v Hoyer main event.   Either way, it looks as if the Democrats go into 2011... split.

With Pelosi being as toxic as she is, is this a good move on her part? For the Democrats? Do they need a fresh voice?
Am I wrong to believe this move will weaken an already weak Democratic Party because it will cause a splinter at a time when they need to be united?
Does Pelosi hurt Obama's chance to work with the Republican Majority?
Does she kill any chances the Democrats have of taking back the house in two years?
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