Good Friday Morning! Except to Nancy Pelosi, who announced she was no longer seeking to head up Democratic House Leadership in the upcoming term. Pelosi has been a thorn in the side of conservatives for twenty years. She’s had her bright moments and then her low ones. And if you’re on the right, the low far outweighed the highs.
I’ve got a column at CI on her tenure in Congress linked below and several other writers in the links section on Pelosi. In the newsletter today, I’m going to dig into one of my first thoughts when I saw the announcements of Pelosi leaving. It’s not just her leaving that’s noteworthy: it’s the top three House Democratic leaders. I’ll get more into that below – links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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[11/14/2022] If Trump demands credit for 2022, he can have it. It’s his fault. – Conservative Institute
[11/18/2022] Nancy Pelosi leaves a poor legacy of power politics at its worst – Conservative Institute
A Generational Shift in the House — Does it portent more?
Republicans won just enough seats to secure a majority in the House, giving us guaranteed divided government for the next two years. As a result, we’re also getting a complete changing of the guard in House leadership. And as I’m watching Democrats, it raises some questions for me.
The two big news items are that Kevin McCarthy will be the new Speaker of the House for Republicans and Nancy Pelosi is stepping down from Democratic House leadership. On the Republican side, the ascendance of new House leadership has taken several years to coalesce (yet, is still rocky) behind McCarthy. On the Democratic side, they’re doing a complete changing of the guard.
It’s not just Pelosi stepping down; the top three Democrats in the House are no longer seeking their leadership positions: Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim Clyburn. Based on reports, they’re stepping aside to move their chosen replacements into those roles.
Reporting suggests we’re going to get: Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jefferies, Rep. Katherine Clark as the new Whip, and Rep. Pete Aguilar stepping into the policy role. Jacob Rubashkin notes, “Complete swap out of the top three Democratic leaders and a clear generational shift. From a troika age 82, 83, 82 to 52, 59, 43.”
Obviously, all three will have to survive votes from their colleagues. However, with Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn all remaining in Congress while this goes down, it suggests they will use their clout to push the party in that direction. From there, Democrats will backfill positions.
So, while there’s no change in the Senate at the moment, we see a shift in the House, and Donald Trump is trying to stave off a challenge from Ron DeSantis. That leaves the White House in an intriguing position amid this changeover. I wonder if Democrats want change there too.
I found it noteworthy that all three top Democrats left their posts to push new leadership. Pelosi, I expected. But had you asked me what happened next, I half expected Clyburn to seek the top job, at least for a little bit.
In the last two weeks, I’ve highlighted some reporting that called into question whether or not Biden would run again. Last week, I concluded, “Any plans to push Biden out of office got on ice for now. These midterm results breathed new life into Biden and the Democrats. We will maintain a form of the status quo we had before the elections. Democrats are stuck with all the baggage of Biden for the foreseeable future.”
My thinking on this situation is up in the air, and I’ve flipped back and forth. On the one hand, I think it makes little political sense for Democrats to push Biden out the door. He’s the only unifying figure they have for the White House, and everyone else is weak. On the other hand, after these midterms, I wonder if they believe they can shift Biden out with Donald Trump still on the scene.
By all accounts, Democrats should have experienced tough losses and overperformed because of Trump. The Donald will still be around in 2024, which gives Democrats another whack at that piñata. It goes back to an old political rule: when your enemy is making a mistake, never stop him.
That brings me back to some comments Clyburn made just before the midterms. With Clyburn leaving leadership, along with Pelosi and Hoyer, it’s worth revisiting his midterms thoughts. Here’s Robert Acosta with CBS News recounting what he learned:
Should Democrats have a tough night and lose the House, Whip Jim Clyburn tells @CBSNews, in interview tonight, that Democrats need to conduct a “real good assessment” of the party and figure out why it has an “inability to horn in on a message” that better connects…
“When all the results are in, I think we ought to have a real good assessment of where we are and who we are, and make some plans based upon that,” Clyburn told me tonight. Added WH “needs to sit down and take a look at exactly what’s going on there,” in terms of msg/strategy.
“I want these discussions to deal with who has what capacity to do what… speechmaking is an art, an art that Barack Obama has and Joe Biden does not have. And what’s interesting about that, is the fact that I think that Joe is just the greatest guy in the world on policy.”
Clyburn tonight to CBS: “I just think that we have to plan for 2024 differently than what took place in 2022. Now does that mean bringing in new people? Does that mean reassigning roles? I don’t know. I just think that people ought to just be honest with their assessments.”
Clyburn said Democrats, including President Biden, need to avoid being “too senatorial” in speechmaking moving forward, need to focus on what proposals “will do for you, what it will do for your family, and what it will do for your community.”
Fox News added another paragraph from Acosta’s reporting elsewhere:
“[Clyburn] says tonight, his entire party is at a crossroads tonight should the GOP win the House. I [Acosta] asked him tonight, should President Biden run into 2024. He said, ‘I’m not going to say whether anybody should run in 2024.’ I said, ‘Will you run for the House leadership again should the leadership lose?’ He said it all depends on what happens tonight. There is a lot of talk behind the scenes about what this means for the Democratic Party,” Costa recounted.
It’s worth noting here: Clyburn was playing coy with whether or not he would run for leadership again. With all three prominent Democrats moving at the same time, they made a coordinated decision to step down together. When Clyburn was saying this, he was already halfway out the door of leadership.
My fundamental question is this: Democrats are cleaning house in the House; do they want to do the same in the White House?
To answer the inevitable question: if a President resigns, the Vice President fills the office. A replacement for the Vice President follows the procedures in the 25th Amendment: “Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.”
We’ve done this twice. First, Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigned. From there, Gerald Ford got nominated by Nixon to fill the position, the Senate vetted him, and both chambers voted on him. This situation happened again after Nixon resigned. Ford stepped into the White House and nominated Nelson Rockefeller as the replacement Vice President, who went through the same procedures.
In the event Biden resigned, Kamala Harris would take over the Presidency. She’d then have to nominate someone to be her Vice President, who would have to be vetted by the Senate and voted on by both chambers. The hardest part of this is the Senate, which Democrats control. A House vote is all about numbers and whether or not Republicans have an interest in preventing a nominee through to the Vice Presidency role. We’ve not seen McCarthy forced into a hard whip vote, so I don’t know how this would go for either party.
Will this happen? No idea. As I’ve said, I keep flip-flopping on this. The most likely scenario is that Biden runs again and tries to make it a repeat of 2020 with everything about Trump or MAGA, no matter who is on the top of the ticket. But when the NYTimes starts running stories about Biden’s speaking issues, the Washington Post is giving Biden bottomless Pinocchios for false claims, and Politico is running reports on how 2024 is consuming Harris, it seems best to note these stories.
That Politico report is something, by the way. In a report that mainly talks about DeSantis and Trump, they toss this section in:
If Democratic voters have barely started to consider Biden alternatives, the topic is increasingly consuming the would-be successors themselves, as well as their spouses. Doug Emhoff, the Second Gentleman, has told Democrats the party must rally around Harris should Biden not run.
Such talk, however, causes eye-rolling in the West Wing, where officials believe Harris is on stronger footing now than she was in her first year but remain skeptical about her viability in 2024.
Those doubts are shared by most Democratic lawmakers, whose dread about 2024 extends from the specter of nominating an octogenarian with dismal approval ratings to the equally delicate dilemma of whether to nominate his more unpopular vice president or pass over the first Black woman in the job.
Emphasis mine. I was pointed to that Politico segment by Harris’s hometown paper, SF Gate. That last paragraph is why I think Democrats are stuck with Harris no matter what. If they decide to move on from Biden and convince him to step down, challenging Harris in a primary would be very difficult for any other Democrat.
Again, I repeat, the most likely scenario: Biden runs again. But Democrats are the ones making noise about someone other than Biden for 2024. And that’s what is giving me pause. Given his age and seemingly deteriorating mental condition – that is mainstream news, not right-wing fodder – I think you have to take this smoke around Biden seriously.
Jim Clyburn is the only reason Biden won the primaries, starting in South Carolina. If he’s signaling Biden is a one-term POTUS while leaving Democratic leadership, that can’t get ignored. Democrats might want a clean sweep in leadership. They’ve done it in the House, and the White House could be next. If I were Chuck Schumer, I’m looking over my shoulder a bit more (watch for an AOC primary against Schumer; I think we’ll learn how ambitious she is soon).
I have other thoughts on the continued chaos on the House side of leadership versus Democrats. But I’ll leave those for another day. For now, keep an eye on the smoke surrounding Biden as we head toward 2024. The summer of 2023 could be when this starts coming to a head. Republicans will begin gearing up for late fall 2023 debates, and the primaries will loom in early 2024. If Democrats start getting scared of a DeSantis run (which I think they will), they’ll make noise for a stronger candidate.
As Sean Trende points out in his midterms recap, by the time the next Congress is seated in January, we’ll be 22 months away from the next election. Aside from the electoral clock, events will play into much of this. Every significant economic forecast I’ve seen predicts a recession in 2023. If we get that, Democrats will look even harder at their choices.
If you want the stupidest take on this situation, check out this left-leaning piece in The Hill: “Here’s a game plan: Biden replaces Harris with Newsom and then resigns.” If this scenario happens, I’m betting everything on the eventual Republican nominee.
Links of the week
What Happened? – Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics
Good Riddance, Madame Speaker – Andrew Ferguson, Washington Free Beacon
Nancy Pelosi’s legacy — spending a colossal amount of money – John Podhoretz, NYPost
Trump’s Announcement Is a Sign of Weakness – Ross Douthat, New York Times
Real takeaway from the midterms: Republicans closing the gap in traditional blue states – Marc Lotter, Washington Times
Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, others are bankrolling the woke education agenda, says parents group: Reading scores just saw their largest decline in 30 years, according to the Department of Education – Fox News
Moms for Liberty-backed school board members fire superintendent, ban critical race theory: The Berkeley County, South Carolina, school board made several big moves in its first meeting after the election. The board’s former chair said it was a “political witch hunt.” – NBC News
A Rabbi Tempts Fate on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: Israelis are beginning to buck the state’s ban on Jewish prayer at Judaism’s holiest site. – Armin Rosen, Wall Street Journal
They Paused Puberty, but Is There a Cost? Puberty blockers can ease transgender youths’ anguish and buy time to weigh options. But concerns are growing about long-term physical effects and other consequences. – The New York Times
The Crushing Loneliness of the Girl Boss: COVID lockdowns have sparked a backlash against the fashionable brand of feminism that promotes placing career and individual satisfaction above family life – Katherine Dee, Tablet Magazine
A Movie for the Post #MeToo Moment: Tár is unsettling, pretentious, and too long. Go see it immediately. – Freddie deBoer, Common Sense
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!