The Democrats need new blood

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Nancy Pelosi, the House Demo­cratic leader, will be 77 next year. Dana Mil­bank Colum­nist Fol­low Dana Mil­bank on Twit­ter, @Mil­bank.

Steny Hoyer, her deputy, will be 78.

Jim Cly­burn, the No. 3 Demo­cratic leader, will be 77.

Their cur­rent ages, if com­bined, would date back to be­fore 1787, the year Ge­orge Washington presided over the sign­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion. It is time for them to go. This is not to take away any­thing from their ac­com­plish­ments. Hoyer is one of the most de­cent and ge­nial peo­ple in pol­i­tics. Pelosi, the first woman to be speaker of the House, has been enor­mously ef­fec­tive in uni­fy­ing her Demo­cratic cau­cus.

But let’s be hon­est. Bar­ring a po­lit­i­cal earth­quake, the next plau­si­ble chance for Democrats to take over the House is in 2022, af­ter the 2020 Cen­sus and a re­draw­ing of district lines that have pro­tected Repub­li­cans. By then, Pelosi and Cly­burn would be 83, Hoyer 84.

Democrats would ben­e­fit from some fresh blood to take on Don­ald Trump, the old­est pres­i­dent ever elected for the first time, and to re­vive en­thu­si­asm among mil­len­ni­als, who didn’t turn out in the num­bers Democrats needed.

Pelosi’s lead­er­ship team also mis­played the 2016 elec­tion. Its cam­paign arm, the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, in­sisted on a strat­egy of ty­ing each Repub­li­can to Trump, even though, as I wrote at the time, ev­i­dence showed that this wouldn’t work. Democrats gained a pal­try six seats.

But the most com­pelling rea­son for them to step aside is gen­er­a­tional. All three are tech­ni­cally from the so-called Silent Gen­er­a­tion, but they are the van­guard of the baby boom gen­er­a­tion that dom­i­nates Congress. Pelosi has been em­blem­atic of that gen­er­a­tion’s gov­ern­ing style on both sides: Pas­sion­ately ide­o­log­i­cal and un­yield­ing, they presided over cul­tural war­fare and dys­func­tion.

This is why Tim Ryan’s long­shot chal­lenge to Pelosi is wel­come. The 43-year-old back­bencher from the Youngstown, Ohio, area won’t win, but he is do­ing Democrats a fa­vor by forc­ing them to think about the de­sir­abil­ity of keep­ing their sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian leaders in place. Hope­fully it will has­ten their suc­ces­sion plans — Pelosi’s iron grip over the cau­cus has made this dif­fi­cult — so that all three can step down soon. Among those Pelosi is groom­ing: Joe Crow­ley, 54; Linda Sanchez, 47; Joe Kennedy III, 36; Eric Swal­well, 36; Kather­ine Clark, 53; and Matt Cartwright, 55.

Ryan isn’t a flaw­less can­di­date. He’s only a re­cent con­vert to sup­port­ing abor­tion rights. His de­trac­tors point out that in his 14 years in the House, he has won pas­sage of just three minor bills. Op­po­nents grum­ble that his real pur­pose in chal­leng­ing Pelosi is to raise his vis­i­bil­ity for a gu­ber­na­to­rial run in 2018, when Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich will be term-limited.

But Ryan is an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter, a for­mer high­school quar­ter­back who drinks at the Open Hearth bar on Steel Street in Youngstown and is the author of books on the ben­e­fits of med­i­ta­tion and healthy eat­ing. And this Rust Belt politi­cian’s cen­tral cri­tique of his party is cor­rect: A pop­ulist eco­nomic mes­sage was se­condary to cul­tural is­sues in the 2016 elec­tion and dur­ing much of the Obama pres­i­dency.

Ryan, who won 68 per­cent of the vote in a district where Clin­ton un­der­per­formed rel­a­tive to Democrats in the past, ex­plained that Trump’s bluecol­lar vot­ers “are the guys I drink beer with. These are my bud­dies I watch foot­ball with. I don’t need to run a fo­cus group.” His bar-stool fo­cus group tells him that vot­ers didn’t love Trump but wanted to say “go screw your­self” to the es­tab­lish­ment.

In Tim Ryan, I hear a prag­ma­tism that is typ­i­cal of his gen­er­a­tion (and mine). He finds Trump’s racial pol­i­tics “ap­palling” but finds Democrats’ “slic­ing the pie up” be­tween work­ing-class white, black and His­panic Amer­i­cans to be id­i­otic. Of the other Ryan, Repub­li­can House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Demo­crat at­tests: “I like him . ... He’s a nice guy. I don’t de­mo­nize him.”

Nor would Repub­li­cans, af­ter years of de­mo­niz­ing a San Fran­cisco lib­eral, find it as easy to de­mo­nize this son of Ohio. “At least make them do it again to some­one else,” Ryan says. “Hey, why not me?”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.