Democratic House Leadership — Time For a Change


Posted by Bob Lord

There's been a lot written about Republican bloodletting post-election, but precious little about what will happen when the Democratic caucuses reconvene. 

There's an opportunity here for the Dems, if they're willing to make changes. In a sense, it's not entirely fair. The failure of the House Dems to pick up more seats largely was attributable more to the 2010 election, in which Republican victories at the state level allowed them to control (and corrupt) the redistricting process to produce gerrymandered safe districts for their allies in Congress. 

But perception here counts more than reality. And the perception is that current House Democratic leadership is not effecitve. On a personal level, that's painful for me. I've had the occasion to spend time with Nancy Pelosi in very small group settings, and I'm in awe of her intelligence, her compassion, and her communications skills. But, for whatever reason, what a few people get the chance to see in small group settings is not visible when she's under the camera lights or in front of large groups. She's developed a persona, which, however unfair, is not helpful in advancing the progressive agenda. We just don't need a rallying point for Republican House candidates in 2014 when we're trying to make gains in that chamber.

After the 2010 election, the House Dems prudently made few changes. When a disaster like 2010 hits, the last thing you need is instability in leadership. So having Speaker Pelosi continue as minority leader was smart. But the success of 2012 allows the Dems to make changes, and they need to take advantage of that opportunity. And the change should not be limited to the top post. Steve Israel was a poor choice as DCCC chair. He is far too conservative for the post and, perhaps for that reason, was ineffective. He also took actions that angered many. He refused to support viable candidates in some districts and was suspected of covertly assisting some Dem primary candidates against viable opponents. It's quite possible CD9 in Arizona fell into the latter category. 

There is no shortage of capable leaders in the Dem caucus in the House who would shine as the face of the Party. One to consider is Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, former DCCC chair. He serves on Ways and Means, perhaps the most important committee in the coming term, has a commanding grasp of the fiscal issues we face and, most importantly, projects really well on television, the medium through which our leaders communicate to the public. There are others who should be considered. Xavier Becerra would be great choice, for reasons similar to Van Hollen. What's important is that change take place and that the new leaders are chosen based on how they will present as the face of the caucus, not on how they are able to make deals behind closed doors to gain the support of their fellow caucus members.