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On the #FiveWhiteGuys Coup

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President-elect Barack Obama, flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. meets with Congressional Republican and Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

My longstanding position on Nancy Pelosi as Speaker/Minority Leader has been:

  • She is an exceptionally good legislative leader.
  • There is no obvious replacement, and you’d be far more likely to do worse than better.
  • If I’m going to lose that, there had better be strong evidence of some real benefit.
  • Claims that Pelosi is a drag on the electoral chances of House candidates strike me as neither plausible on their face nor as far as I can tell supported by any actual evidence [and, after the 2018 wave, there isn’t even a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy to go with.]
  • So it makes no sense to replace her.

The #FiveWhiteGuys rebellion, for the reasons given by Charles, certainly hasn’t changed my mind:

I am willing to concede—indeed, I am devoutly hoping—that this talk is all a bluff. The #FiveWhiteGuys seem to think they can scare Pelosi out of running, which is completely foolish. This is because, if it’s not a bluff, and Moulton really has these votes, it almost certainly means that he’s cut a deal with some Republicans to get them.

He spends an awful lot of time blowing off steam about bipartisan problem-solving and all those other conjuring words that will magically transport you to cable green rooms, but that also completely ignore the fact that, now that it’s in the minority, the Republican House caucus will be even crazier than it was under Paul Ryan. And arguing that the party needs a “new generation of leadership,” while playing coy over who that might be, and whom they might owe for their elevation, is a bit of smoky legerdemain that smacks of a three-card monte game.

For those members, old and new, who oppose Pelosi from the left, the #FiveWhiteGuys are offering a sucker’s bet. The #FiveWhiteGuys are of the school that believes that the Democratic Party’s needs are best served winning back all those disgruntled folks at diners in the Mahoning Valley, a theory fairly well demolished last Tuesday. It is very unlikely that a Green New Deal or Medicare For All is high on their list of priorities. The only argument that the #FiveWhiteGuys have that might resonate with their new progressive colleagues is that Pelosi is old and has been in Congress for a long time. Period. That’s not enough to dispense with the party’s most effective legislative leader since Lyndon Johnson.

So what the #FiveWhiteGuys are flirting with is not a brawl within the party, but a three-way brawl in which the progressive side and the #FiveWhiteGuys side both work to bring Pelosi down, which would set the stage for an absolute bloodbath between those two forces for the right to pick her successor. (And, strictly from a provincial standpoint here in the Commonwealth—God save it!—we are preparing to have Richard Neal as chairman of House Ways and Means and James McGovern as chairman of House Rules. If this attempted coup screws that up, Moulton’s going to have some serious ‘splainin’ to do back home.)

There is no need for any of this. Pelosi stays as speaker. Steny Hoyer goes, replaced by, say, Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Jim Clyburn does what he wants, and the new generation moves into position as deputy whips under him. Then the Democratic Party can get back to the primary business at hand: beating the Republicans sufficiently hard and sufficiently often until the Republican Party regains a semblance of sanity. It’s a long, hard job.

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