Still out of step

Nancy Pelosi sur­vives, but her party cel­e­brates only its past

The Washington Times Daily - - ED­I­TO­RIAL -

“Ihave a spe­cial spring in my step to­day,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi ex­ulted on be­ing re-elected leader of the Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity, “be­cause this op­por­tu­nity is a spe­cial one, to lead the House Democrats, bring every­one to­gether as we go for­ward.”

Per­haps. We of­fer con­grat­u­la­tions, but Mrs. Pelosi will need a brave face along with a spring in her step as she whis­tles past her party’s ex­pand­ing grave­yard. Democrats will be in a dis­tinct mi­nor­ity in the 115th Congress, for the fourth Congress in a row.

Only a month ago, Mrs. Pelosi, serv­ing her 14th term, reck­oned it was even money that the elec­tion would make her the speaker again. The Democrats were con­fi­dent they would pick up the 30 seats nec­es­sary to win back con­trol of the House. They gained only 6.

The fu­ture looks bleak. Her lieu­tenants — Reps. Steny Hoyer, 77, of Mary­land and James Cly­burn, 76, of South Carolina — were re-elected, en­sur­ing that a scle­rotic geron­toc­racy will di­rect the Democrats in the House for an­other two years. This was the very down-bal­lot dis­as­ter pre­dicted for the Repub­li­cans.

She de­feated a ro­bust in­sur­gent chal­lenge from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio. At 76, Mrs. Pelosi is nearly twice the age of Mr. Ryan, 43, but with some mileage left be­fore the party trades her for some­thing new. Age, af­ter all, is rel­a­tive, up to a point. Ron­ald Rea­gan was re­garded by Democrats as too old for a sec­ond term in 1984 at age 73. Mrs. Pelosi’s col­leagues must re­gard the Gip­per now as a mere kid.

Age and guile, as satirist P.J. O’Rourke wryly ob­served, “beat youth, in­no­cence and a bad hair­cut.” Tim Ryan’s chal­lenge drew a re­spectable 63 votes, and he rightly ar­gues that his party’s prob­lem is not the age of the lead­ers but the loss of its con­nec­tion with Amer­ica’s work­ing class. Mr. Ryan’s 63 votes this year mir­rored the 63 House seats Democrats lost in the 2010 midterm elec­tions, leav­ing them with just 193 mem­bers in the 435-mem­ber House, the party’s fewest since the 1940s.

It has been down­hill since. Democrats will have only 194 mem­bers when the new term be­gins.

Do­ing the same wrong thing twice and ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult is crazy, as the wise man said, and the Democrats have not yet learned much from their sev­eral con­gres­sional lick­ings. Some Democrats have seen the hand­writ­ing on the wall. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Ari­zona, elected to a third term this month, says it’s ob­vi­ous that “the cur­rent strat­egy doesn’t work. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans don’t feel that our party rep­re­sents them any more, and they’ve said so, loudly, in mul­ti­ple elec­tions.”

The hard-left nos­trums of Sens. Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont and El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, how­ever, are still march­ing mu­sic in many Demo­cratic ears. The march­ing mu­sic does noth­ing to tug the Demo­cratic Party back to the cen­ter where most Amer­i­cans live. Mrs. Pelosi, still with a lot to learn, in­sists that Democrats will re­bound. “We know how to win elec­tions,” she says. “We’ve done it in the past. We will do it again.” But nos­tal­gia for the dead past has never won an elec­tion.

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