Nancy Pelosi’s Leadership Faces New Threats from Rebels in Democratic Caucus

Nancy Pelosi gavel (Chip Somodevilla / Getty)
Chip Somodevilla / Getty

The stunning defeat of House Democratic Caucus chair Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in the New York primary on Tuesday signals trouble for House Minority Leader Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

For years, Pelosi has clung to power within her caucus even though she led her party to historic defeat in 2010. But increasingly, she finds herself the target of repeated calls for new, “young” blood in the leadership of her party.

Those calls first emerged last year after Republicans made Pelosi a target in the special election in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, when “progressive” favorite Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel.

Democrats running in subsequent elections have often succeeded when they have promised not to vote for Pelosi to be Speaker of the House if their party takes the majority in November.

Now, with the primary victory of political neophyte Alexandria Ocarios-Cortez, 28, in New York’s 14th congressional district, Pelosi, 78, is facing more criticism than ever.
On Wednesday, Pelosi tried to minimize the importance of Ocarinas-Cortez’s victory, cautioning that it would not necessarily translate into victory’s for her party’s progressive wing in other districts. “Nobody’s district is representative of somebody else’s district,” Pelosi reportedly told the media on Wednesday. She added that the outcome was “just a sign of vitality of our party.”

Pelosi also had the following testy exchange with a reporter (transcript via Grabien):

Reporter: “Leader Pelosi, to that end, the Democratic Party is increasingly younger, more female, more diverse, more progressive. Should the Democratic House leadership look that way?”

Pelosi: “Well I’m female, I’m progressive, I’m — and the rest. So what’s your problem? (Laughter) Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Reporter: “[indecipherable]”

Pelosi: “No, they did. They made a choice in one district. So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that. … It is not to be viewed as something that stands for anything else.

Buzzfeed Politics reported Wednesday that some Democrats are saying openly that Pelosi needs to go:

“I wouldn’t take anything for granted if I were in leadership now,” Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth told reporters Wednesday morning.

As it became clear that Crowley would lose Tuesday night, one House Democrat told BuzzFeed News, “I think this may help open doors for the younger generation of Democrats in the House of Representatives.”

“I think it’s just yet another wake-up call that the country is ready for progressives, for folks of color, for leadership that understands that anger that is across the country about where people’s future’s lie,” Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a first-term progressive lawmaker, said Wednesday morning. “It’s a call for a different way of doing business.”

Within the caucus, Jayapal said, “I think everything is up in the air. … I’m thinking there will be a shake-up, and, if not right now, then certainly after November.”

Pelosi has previously faced challenges from moderates, including former Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). Now, however, she could face an uprising from the party’s left wing as well.

In February, Pelosi staged a record-breaking eight-hour-plus speech on the floor of the House of Representatives that was ostensibly a defense of young illegal immigrants (“Dreamers”), but was also a demonstration that she could still lead the party — physically, as well as politically.

In May, Pelosi declared explicitly that she intended to become Speaker of the House if Democrats won the midterm elections. And earlier this month, California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom who is running for governor, declared that Democrats had to “put Nancy Pelosi back in the speakership.”

Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described “democratic socialist,” was an organizer for the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described “democratic socialist,” was an organizer for the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

According to Politico, Crowley was “widely seen as a potential future speaker” of the House. He is reportedly the first incumbent Democrat in the United States to lose his seat in a primary election this year.

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


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