There has been much hand-wringing and intraparty soul-searching about whether Nancy Pelosi should relinquish her position as the Democratic Party’s leader in the U.S. House – a post she has held since 2007. The answer is clear to everyone but Pelosi and her caucus.
If Democratic leadership in Congress is to regain any credibility, Pelosi needs to step aside in favor of younger leaders with a new and clear vision.
But there are some problems there: Pelosi has declared that she is not going anywhere willingly. Vision is in short supply. And, in fact, so are younger leaders.
Pelosi is actually a reflection of her party and where it now stands: Against Donald Trump and his agenda and not much else.
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But what is the Democratic Party for?
Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who challenged Pelosi for House minority leader last fall, lamented recently that the Democrats’ “brand is worse than Donald Trump’s.”
Pelosi is the face of that brand. But it is the entire brand that is not selling.
The Democrats have maintained their power on the West Coast and in the Northeast, but they are no longer the voice of the people in the heart of America. Since the beginning of Barack Obama’s first term as president, the Democrats have lost more than 1,000 state and federal legislative seats. The party’s loss of support in Appalachia has been particularly staggering.
The problem is deeper than Pelosi. Where is the party’s substantive alternative – on taxes, on student loans, on infrastructure or on Obamacare?
There are many reasons to find fault with the Republicans’ health care and Obamacare repair proposals, but what are the Democratic alternatives? Surely Democrats cannot believe that Obamacare does not need to be fixed. What is their proposal?
On trade and industry, people like Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Mr. Ryan might lead the party back to meat and potatoes Democratic values.
On wealth and taxation, Sen. Sherrod Brown, also of Ohio, might be the Democratic tribune.
On infrastructure repair, why shouldn’t the two parties find common ground and work together with the president?
The Democrats need not only a new leader in the House but also a positive program.
“Obstruction doesn’t work,” Trump recently declared. Actually it works in Washington, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proved during the Barack Obama years. That’s the bias of our system. But as for the voters, they are signaling that obstruction is not enough.
Neither is replacing Pelosi.