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Democratic leaders step down

The entire top-tier House Democratic Leadership echelon decided to step out of leadership or take further demotions. Are they hiding?

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The House Republican Conference will continue with essentially the same leaders. But the entire Democratic House leadership echelon will change, and drastically. This creates an instant mystery: someone ordered all these people either to bow out completely or take a demotion. Who could have given that order, and what does it mean, moving forward?

Democratic Party loses the House

We know now that the Democratic party lost the House of Representatives last week. Politico’s Big Map credits the Republicans with getting their 218th vote. (Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.-3rd, won her race by 551 votes. The race was supposed to go to an automatic recount. But according to The Hill, challenger Adam Frisch, believing he couldn’t even overcome 551 votes, conceded the election.)

The House Republican Conference should have shaken up its leadership, but declined to do so. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the current Leader, will rise to Speaker. Everyone else in Republican leadership will move up a slot. As an apparent sop to Republicans who wanted to see new leadership, two incoming committee chairmen announced an investigation of the President himself, for corrupt business practices together with his son.

But the House Democratic Conference will change almost its entire leadership echelon. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) started it. On Thursday November 17 she announced she would not hang on as Minority Leader. Later that day, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who had been Majority Leader, announced his retirement from leadership. (Sources: Reuters and The Hill.) Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the current Democratic Whip, now will seek the position of Assistant Floor Leader. He was already facing a one-slot demotion but now will run for a spot two grades below where he stands.

And who will replace them?

The top leadership positions available to the minority party are Leader, Whip and Conference Chairman. Other, lesser leadership positions, like Assistant Leader, also exist. In addition, the majority party has the Speakership. When a party loses its majority, everyone moves one slot down, and the lowest ranker is out of leadership.

The Democratic Party lost its majority, after holding it for four years. But now, instead of merely stepping everyone one slot down, the Democrats will change their leadership almost entirely. The Hill lists those in current favor to take the top three slots available to a minority:

  1. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Minority Leader,
  2. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Minority Whip, and
  3. Pedro Aguilar (D-Calif.), Conference Chairman

Mr. Aguilar might face a challenge from Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), who wanted the Conference Chairmanship. He would have had to compete with Jim Clyburn, but Clyburn wants the Assistant Leader position, and has endorsed Aguilar.

Reuters included this mini-profile of Jeffries and touted him as most likely man to become Minority Leader.

Why the Democratic shake-up?

The most logical reason for any of the top three Democratic leaders to step out or down, is their ages. Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn are all in their eighties. They also have the longest service in the House. Time was when age – and seniority of service – had their advantages. Incredibly – and for no discernible reason other than the Democrats having lost their majority – that will not hold this time.

Pelosi has shown some signs of cognitive impairment almost as bad as that of the pResident. But Hoyer and Clyburn have not. Clyburn has shown a very scathing partisanship, but no one expects better of a whip, anyway.

In sharp contrast, the three new leadership favorites are as much as thirty years younger. Jeffries had another advantage. The Congressional Black Caucus lined up unanimously behind him and would vote for him against any challenger, including Hoyer. (The Congressional Black Caucus refuses admission to any but Democratic members.)

But under any other circumstances, a man like Hoyer woul hang on. Not this time.

Has the House Democratic Conference suddenly adopted a mandatory retirement age for leadership? And are we really to believe that Pelosi and Hoyer volunteered to become backbenchers?

The day before the election, speculated on leadership changes on the Democratic side. The biggest shock seemed to have been Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, losing his seat. But does that explain this shake-up? CNAV doubts it.

One likely reason

Instead, CNAV believes that those three (Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn), in addition to “getting old for this sort of thing,” don’t believe their own hype anymore. Perhaps they believe that the American people will explode in rage as crime and the economy get even worse. And none of them care to be uppermost in anyone’s mind except their own constituents of their “safe” districts.

In fact Adam Frisch, in conceding to Lauren Boebert, offered his own criticism. Colorado’s Third District is rural – and rural voters have flipped Republican in the last sixty years. Frisch thinks he knows why.

Democrats have abandoned rural America and working-class America for the last many years. Republicans have had a monopoly over the backbone of this country.

It took Donald J. Trump to capture the imagination of the urban working class. But the urban-rural divide is a fact and will only get more stark. (In fact, Frisch even told his constituents to save their campaign contribution money to buy groceries!)

Not that their replacements are willing to take any hints. Rumors have Hakeem Jeffries being even more radical than Pelosi has been. In fact Jeffries was a Floor Manager for the first impeachment of Trump. (But AOC doesn’t find him radical enough!)

No one expects Republican and Democratic relations to get better – not under the incoming leadership, they won’t. But clearly Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn have chosen to hide. Will it work for them? Stay tuned.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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