In embracing Nancy Pelosi, Democrats still aren’t getting the message.
In case anyone missed it, Election Day should have been a huge wake-up call for Democrats.
The surprising victory of President-elect Donald Trump was only the half of it. Any solace Democrats try to take in Hillary Clinton’s small popular-vote win ought to be considered against some hard facts on the ground. In Washington, Republicans control the House and the Senate, and soon the presidency. Across the country, the GOP maintained and built upon its advantage in state legislatures and gubernatorial offices. Next year, the party will control 32 legislatures and find itself happily represented by 33 governors.
It’s the kind of dominance the Grand Old Party hasn’t seen in nearly 100 years.
So it seems odd indeed that congressional Democrats decided to stand by Nancy Pelosi as they try to regroup. The former House speaker, and minority leader since the Republican surge of 2010, strikes us as a tarnished standard bearer.
The San Franciscan — at 76 years old — presents an image of past Democratic dominance and the kind of progressive focus on social and civil rights, that although worthy and laudable goals, sent many working-class Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the Rust Belt to Donald Trump’s populist camp. Even some union members defected as Democrats became more known for fighting for transgender bathrooms, for example, than the working men and women the party traditionally claimed.
We take heart that at least one of Colorado’s three House members — Ed Perlmutter of Golden — broke ranks and voted for Tim Ryan, a young congressman from a blue-collar district in Ohio. (Denver’s Diana DeGette and Boulder’s Jared Polis have remained silent about their vote.)
“I just felt we needed a change,” Perlmutter tells us. “I wanted to see someone from the Midwest, who was younger, and who was really talking to the hardworking people in the middle of the country.”
Perlmutter cast his vote hoping to remind his party that many Americans are more concerned about feeding their families. They’ve seen automation and technology replace them. They fear the continued march of globalization. They see the challenges and feel the anxiety.
In a letter to colleagues, Perlmutter noted that the party had more than 60 seats in the House since 2010.
“If you start getting off on marginal issues, they aren’t the general things that most people are thinking about,” Perlmutter tells us. “We missed that boat, thinking, ‘Well, everyone knows we’re working for the hardworking people in the middle,’ but we lost that message and that vote.”
Colorado’s Democrats fared better this election cycle than their national counterparts. Hillary Clinton bested Trump by 5 percentage points, and Democrats increased their lead in the state House, though they lost big battles they pitched against incumbent Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton.
We like checks and balances, and prefer a more equitable balance of power than the one the new year will usher in. To that end, we hope Democrats are able to re-gather their strength. But their choice of Nancy Pelosi doesn’t suggest they’re getting the message. They ought to start listening to Ed Perlmutter.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi was re-elected as House minority leader last month, receiving 134 votes to challenger Rep. Tim Ryan’s 63.