Now that the blue wave has flooded Washington, it’s time for the Democrats in the House of Representatives to take advantage of the House’s broad investigative power to provide much-needed oversight of President Donald Trump.
According to Axios, Democrats have as many as 85 topics they could investigate within the Trump administration, including the president’s tax returns, former FBI director James Comey’s firing, the president’s relationship with Russia and the Trump family business.
On the other hand, it’s likely the Democrats will also look to work with the president on bipartisan legislation covering infrastructure, criminal justice reform and drug prices.
This is a complex balance for the Democrats to manage, and it will be managed by the Speaker of the House. The Speaker will serve as the de facto leader of the Democratic Party in the House, decide which bills will come to the floor for debate and appoint members of her party to the chairs of all the investigative committees.
I say “her party” because there’s only one person who can manage this role and handle everything on the Democrats’ plate, and her name is Nancy Pelosi.
But for a sizable few in the party, she’s not the choice.
These misguided Democrats come from both incumbent and newly-elected circles. Seventeen Democrats have signed a letter formally stating they won’t support Pelosi in the Speaker election. The signatures come from 12 incumbent members, four incoming representatives and one candidate whose election hasn’t been decided yet.
The number climbed when Congresswoman-elect Abigail Spanberger from Virginia said she wouldn’t support Pelosi, though Spanberger’s isn’t among the signatures on the letter. Five others have similarly expressed opposition without signing the letter.
The members of this anti-Pelosi crew all agree on the same talking points: It’s time for a change in leadership. It’s time for new voices in Congress. Some critics, like Marcia Fudge of Ohio’s 11th District, have said that the Democratic leadership should reflect the diversity of the new Congress.
But the never-Pelosi crew doesn’t reflect the chamber’s diversity either. If someone were to challenge Pelosi for the speakership, it would likely come from this small group that’s mostly comprised of white men, many of whom are over 60.
The key phrase there is “if someone were to challenge.” As of now, nobody has announced intent to challenge Pelosi for the Speakership. Fudge and Tim Ryan of Ohio’s 13th district haven’t ruled out runs, but until they and their colleagues find someone to officially get behind, they won’t get anywhere.
Another problem with this group is that no matter who they put up, that person wouldn’t have the political clout or national profile that Pelosi does. The only one among them with major leadership experience in Congress is Fudge, who is the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Remember, we’re talking about a careful balancing act with investigations and bipartisan legislation potentially on the table.
Nobody in the Democratic caucus has the experience Pelosi does. She helped lead aggressive oversight in Congress during the later years of George W. Bush’s presidency. She’s met with the president and other congressional leaders to avert a government shutdown.
It’s that experience that gives her the widespread respect to play in Trump’s arena. Any other Democrat would get trampled by the president in any negotiation.
One other concern is the fact that Pelosi was a frequent target of Republican campaign ads and speech. In ads for Senate races, she was mentioned more than 19,000 times, all of which were negative.
These optics shouldn’t be a consideration for anyone. The efficacy of negative advertising toward Pelosi only speaks to the irrational liberal fear and misogyny among parts of the Republican base.
If Republican candidates and officials had substantial claims against Pelosi, they’d spend time making those claims. By using her only as a boogeyman figure to put fear into their base, they prove only that they’re willing to play to the lowest common denominator of attacks to stay in power.
Democrats bowing to those concerns wouldn’t be a victory by any standard. That would just be giving in.
This isn’t a time to give in. This isn’t a time to play to centrist or populist sensibilities. This is a time to hold Trump and his corrupt administration accountable.
Nancy Pelosi is the one to lead right now. In two years, that may change, but right now we need her experience to make up the ground we’ve lost so far.