Frustrated Democrats who want to replace House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have an urgent problem: there is no alternative.
After leading the House Democrats for 15 years, the San Francisco stalwart has total control of her caucus and is a massive fundraising force that her party cannot easily replace. And as the first female Speaker of the House (2007-2011), she has unique status and an array of female supporters, both inside and outside Congress.
Willie Brown, the first African-American mayor from Pelosi’s hometown, cautions in his latest column in the San Francisco Chronicle that those who want to replace Pelosi should be “careful what you ask for. You might wind up with even less.” He argues that Pelosi’s likeliest replacement would be House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who would not bring anything new to the job: “The 78-year-old Hoyer is no new face or change agent, and neither are any of the other Democrats in the leadership line.” Pelosi, he argues, is “the only Democrat in the House who can command national attention,” and no one else in the party “can match her work ethic or fundraising prowess.”
In British elections, leaders of losing parties typically resign. But after losing control of the House in the massive Tea Party wave election of 2010, Pelosi clung to power. She has done so after every election since then. Ironically, her power within her caucus has grown with each loss, because the remaining Democrats are drawn from the same narrow urban base from which Pelosi draws her power, and whose priorities are reflected in the party’s ideology.
The fate of those who have dared challenge Pelosi is instructive. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), who ran against her in 2011, lost his seat to a Republican in 2012. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who challenged her in November, has failed to build a national profile. Pelosi has also strengthened her position by promoting members of key constituencies in the party, and by holding out the prospect of allowing younger members to serve in leadership roles.
If she goes, it would likely be after the next election — by which time it would be too late to save Democrats’ prospects for 2018. And in the meantime, Democrats would have to find a new candidate — something Pelosi would work to prevent.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.