It’s fair to say that both the Republicans and Democrats are engaged in some post-election, and to some extent internecine and ideological, jockeying. This tends to happen with changes of party power, especially on the losing side. On the Republican side, there was a brief skirmish over earmarks, with Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina waging a successful insurrection against incoming majority minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell. That battle isn’t quite over yet, but it’s just minor gun play compared to what’s going on on the Democratic side.
A couple of weeks before the midterms, I highlighted a local Texas incident as evidence that a national Democratic crack-up was likely. In that case, a centrist Democratic county chairman resigned his position with the party — a position to which he had been elected by Democratic primary voters just a few months prior — to endorse a Republican running for state House against a liberal Democrat incumbent (and that Republican went on to win easily). Call that the first shot in the looming Democratic civil war.
Now bigger guns are rolling out, and they’re aimed at the Democratic leadership. On Monday, Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen came out with op-ed arguing that President Obama shouldn’t seek re-election in 2012.
This is a critical moment for the country. From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future. Under these circumstances, Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones.
To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012.
Caddell was Jimmy Carter’s pollster, while Schoen worked for the Clinton White House. So they were major figures inside the last two Democratic administrations. This isn’t the first time they’ve taken aim together at Obama. Back in July, they wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed blasting Obama for being “divisive” and playing politics with serious issues like border security. It’s tempting to see the “one and done” idea as an attempt to get Obama to opt out to make room for a Hillary Clinton run in 2012, but Caddell is no fan of the Clintons. During the past few years he has been vocal in criticizing the Clinton-led Democratic Party, to the point that the Sorosbots at Media Matters have compiled a dossier on him. MM notes that Caddell has the gall to appear on conservative radio talk shows. The horror!
As for Schoen, yeah, he’s probably just trying to pave the way for Hillary. If Obama has to do an LBJ to make that happen, fine. Lest anyone be fooled, Hillary is no less of an Alinskyite than Obama. She just took a different route to arrive at the threshold of power. Nevertheless, a direct attack on a sitting president of your own party by figures like Caddell and Schoen is significant.
The knives in the Senate came out when it looked like Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrats’ leader, was going to be boiled in Tea. Sens. Chuck Shumer and Dick Durbin plotted a post-Reid Senate leadership. But he won, and has now offered Schumer a newly created “leadership” position meant to effectively neutralize Schumer as a threat to Reid’s status as Senate majority leader. It’s a “messaging” position, which among other things shows that the Democrats still haven’t absorbed all that Nov 2 shellac.
Guns are also rolling out to take on the Democratic leadership in the House. Specifically, Nancy Pelosi. And she’s facing battles on two fronts as she seeks to be elected minority leader.
The very idea that someone who just led her party to historic defeat, and who is the least popular politician in America, would even think of returning to a party leadership post is more than a little odd. Nancy Pelosi came in as speaker of the House promising an ethical and transparent House that ended up staging midnight votes, locking whole states out of negotiations on the health care bill, and hiding that bill from the public before congressional votes. Her four-year tenure saw the budget deficit explode, which was brought on largely by a housing crisis caused by figures like Rep. Barney Frank and others who forced banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to engage in risky mortgage loans that ended up blowing up the economy. Pelosi herself is a far left figure, elected from what may be the most leftist district in the entire country, and seems to be entirely and publicly in love with the trappings of power. Pelosi’s tenure as speaker of the House will be remembered, but not fondly.
Nevertheless, she wants to return to leadership as her party’s leader even though it’s now in the minority. That would push the current leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer, into the #2 slot and the current #2, Rep. James Clyburn, into some newly created #3 as “assistant leader.” It sounds a little like “hall monitor,” only with less power. The fact that this would force Clyburn, who had been the most powerful black congressman in the nation, into something that sounds ceremonial isn’t lost on the Congressional Black Caucus. They’re demanding more detail about Clyburn’s new responsibilities before signing off on the deal. And the CBC of course has its own dilemma, with newly elected black Republicans Rep. Allen West and Rep. Tim Scott coming to Washington. Both have expressed interest in joining the CBC, and West has been particularly vocal about making the CBC more ideologically diverse. West is a strong conservative, while the CBC is the House’s most liberal caucus.
Pelosi’s other battle front is coming from one of the few Blue Dogs who survived the midterms. About half the centrist-ish Blue Dog faction, including several heavy hitters, went down to defeat on Nov 2. But Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina survived and he’s now making a bid to replace Pelosi as minority leader.
Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) formally launched his long-shot bid Monday to oust Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as the leader of House Democrats, beginning to ask lawmakers to support his more centrist campaign to be minority leader.
“I’ll be running,” Shuler said after votes Monday, in his most definitive declaration yet that he’ll oppose Pelosi.
Shuler’s bid is a long shot protest, so much so that other Democrats have given up on that fight and are targeting the next layer of Pelosi’s leadership team. Given the fact that the incoming Democratic minority is actually more liberal than its dead majority was, Pelosi should win easily. But the fact that she’s even considered a viable leader says quite a bit about what the Democrats are making of the midterms. The voters spoke and loudly rejected the far left policies embodied by Pelosi, along with Sen. Harry Reid and President Obama. But the Democrats will return to the 112th Congress with the same leadership that they had going into the 111th.
There are some Democrats, like Caddell and Shuler, who see their party’s crushing defeat as evidence that they need to change their ways and present new faces to the voters. But they’re in the minority of the minority. The Democrats are led by the same people who just led their party, and nearly the country along with it, over a cliff. Pelosi is determined to lead, even if her leadership has come to resemble the zombies in The Walking Dead: shiftless and pointless, but always vicious when the opportunity presents itself. The message that that group received from the voters on Nov 2: We just need to try harder! The party’s far left base agrees, which virtually ensures that what’s left of the Dems will just keep on shuffling to the left.