Part of being a good and seasoned
leader is knowing when to pass the baton to a new generation. If the
Democrats want to remain relevant, dynamic and in tune with a
changing America, Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders should pass
the baton. And if they don't, they must learn to share power.
Pelosi positioning herself once again to become speaker of the House,
questions remain as to whether she should assume this position. In a
letter to their Democratic colleagues, 16 incoming and current
members of Congress -- mostly moderate and male -- thanked Pelosi for
her years of service but argued the time has come for new leadership
in their caucus. "We promised to change the status quo, and we
intend to deliver on that promise," they
claiming their Democratic victory in the midterm elections came from
candidates who said they would support new leadership in Congress.
there is little doubt that Pelosi is a capable leader who has raised
millions of dollars
for her caucus and was a guiding
behind the passage of Obamacare, she is not an example of future
she is not the future of the Democratic Party, which has just
in Congress since Watergate. The 2019 House Democrats will be the
most diverse they have ever been -- with a record number of women,
young women of color and LGBTQ people taking their seats following an
election driven by a departure from politics as usual.
Pelosi is only part of the issue. The entire Democratic Party is in
need of a leadership overhaul -- one that incorporates individuals
who reflect the diverse array of people and ideas that exist within
you have any doubt as to why, just take a look at where Democrat
leaders have failed both to represent and defend core parts of their
base. Black lawmakers slammed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
for calling Rep. Maxine Waters "not
after she advocated for harassment of pro-Trump politicians and for
remaining silent when Donald Trump attacked her.
Whip Steny Hoyer, who has avoided the negative attacks Pelosi faces,
a progressive congressional candidate and forcing him out of his race
in support of moderate candidates. Hoyer defended
on the grounds that the party needs to support candidates who will
win the general election in "tough" districts. And
to invest in races in the South.
years, the party supported Wall Street and lost touch with working
people and the poor. Democrats embraced
welfare reform and "tough on crime" policies that
devastated marginalized communities, and financial deregulation that
more income inequality, eroded unions and paved the way for Trump.
Democrats have also ignored outreach to their base -- including
communities of color -- opting instead to chase the elusive suburban
soccer mom and field bland, unwinnable candidates with weak and stale
messages. A postmortem
of the 2016 election criticized the Democrats for, among other
things, failing to prioritize fighting voter suppression, embrace
social movements or expand and energize the base, turning off
working-class voters with a hawkish stance, ignoring rural America
and the youth-driven Bernie Sanders movement, and placing corporate
profits over the needs of the public.
wisdom dictated that only moderate white Democratic candidates --
such as former senatorial candidates Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Claire
McCaskill in Missouri and Phil Bredesen in Tennessee could
in the South and Midwest. However, these candidates did not
necessarily speak to or reflect the diversity of the party --
particularly African-Americans, who consistently are reliable
2019 presents a chance for a reset. The newly elected members of the
House are not the usual suspects -- they are everyday people whose
presence demands new policies and threatens to upend the way
Washington does business.
Lucy McBath, a progressive black woman activist who lost her son
Jordan Davis to racialized vigilante gun violence, and defeated Rep.
Karen Handel in the red Georgia 6th Congressional District. As a gun
control advocate who forged a multiracial coalition, McBath offers
badly needed perspectives and strategies for federal legislation to
tackle the epidemic of gun proliferation. While she did not sign the
letter calling for Pelosi's ouster, McBath is a movement leader whose
life experience and knack for working with people warrants a position
of influence in the new Congress.
it's not just McBath. Congress now has its first Native American
members of Congress, and its first Muslim women members, including
Somali-American and former refugee Ilhan Omar
of Minnesota and Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
who unseated one of the most powerful House Democrats and now
supports efforts to "primary"
out-of-touch Democratic incumbents. She participated in a sit-in in
Pelosi's office to demand a "Green New Deal,"
which would wean the US economy off fossil fuels in a few decades.
Ocasio-Cortez is supporting Pelosi for speaker -- noting that all
challenges to the leader are coming from her right, in an effort to
steer the party in a more conservative, corporate-friendly direction
-- the freshman lawmaker should have opportunities to assume
example, Rep. Ro Khanna of California said
Pelosi should create a Green New Deal select committee and make
Ocasio-Cortez the chair. "Pelosi should not only create this
committee, but also appoint @Ocasio2018 as Chair," Khanna
"That is the boldness voters want. We need to shake up Congress
& give the millennial generation a chance to lead. They have the
most at stake re climate change."
would be wise for congressional Democrats to assess their leadership
across the board, and channel the energy of millennials, women, black
and brown activists coming to Washington. Bold, fresh ideas are
crucial to fight the GOP assault on voting rights in the South and
across the nation, and Trump's war on democracy and the rule of law.
must follow the lead of the new blood in their ranks, and that
includes incorporating new leadership while also learning from Pelosi
and the old guard.
commentary was originally published by CNN.com