As they battle to keep their precarious majority in the midterm elections next month, House Democrats have come together. But if they fall short, as many election forecasters believe they will, that togetherness might not last long.
Democrats’ rank-and-file members are anticipated to push hard to replace the party’s Big Three, who are all elderly leaders: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, with a new, younger generation of figures.
If Joe Biden were to seek for reelection in 2024, he would also be in his 80s.
Younger House members have been open about their desire for change even before election day. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a 46-year-old centrist Democrat from Michigan, has urged “fresh blood” and a “new generation” to step forward and take the reins of the Democratic Party. Rep. Dean Phillips, a 53-year-old centrist Democrat from Minnesota, agreed and said of Rep. Slotkin, “Rep. Slotkin has the same outlook as me and the majority of the class of 2018.”
Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, 52, Katherine Clark, 59, and Pete Aguilar, 43, are three aspirational young Democrats who have been building the framework for a post-Pelosi Democratic Caucus leadership transition for several years. And other hungry Democrats have launched challenges against that unofficial leadership slate after recognizing the once-in-a-lifetime chance to advance in the hierarchy.
Pelosi, 82, has been the head of her caucus for almost 20 years. She has previously said that this election cycle will be her last, though more lately, she has shied away from inquiries about her political future. The speaker is not on a shift, she’s on a mission, her longtime spokesman and confidant Drew Hammill reaffirmed.
Democrats claim that if the two-time speaker leads her party to an unexpected victory on November 8, it would be difficult to remove her from office. However, a terrible election night for House Democrats seems more plausible given Biden’s unpopularity and the GOP advantage on the generic congressional ballot (which just asks voters to choose their preferred party).
Democrats claim that Hoyer and Clyburn may attempt to retain their respective positions as the party’s number two and number three representatives or vie for the top position even if Pelosi were to retire. However, several of their coworkers caution that would result in a bloody brawl and not be good for the highly revered old bulls.
“I believe that Hoyer and Clyburn are trying to cling on, but the generational transition decision has already been made and is set in stone. People are going to get a nasty awakening if they don’t see it, according to a Democratic legislator who has worked for decades alongside Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn, according to NBC News.
It will be regrettable. They are both adored, excellent public servants, and wonderful individuals. And it might just be that everyone’s feet have been shifted by the caucus, not just theirs.
It’s a certainty that’s particularly difficult for them to accept right now, a Democratic aide said.
THE NEW GENERATION
To maintain the party’s slim five-seat House majority is the top objective this fall, according to all of the Democrats running for leadership roles. They have been traveling the entire nation, raising tons of money, and advocating for their weaker coworkers. But these leadership hopefuls also hope that their hard work pays off after the election when they call in their political chits and solidify support.
The leadership matchups become rather obvious if Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn go. The Democratic Caucus chairman and well-liked Congressional Black Caucus member Jeffries has spent years building contacts inside the group and has established himself as Pelosi’s likely successor. If successful, the Brooklyn native would go down in history as the first Black minority leader or speaker of the House, taking over from Pelosi, who holds the distinction of becoming the first female speaker of the country.
The House Intelligence Committee’s Adam Schiff, a 62-year-old fellow Californian and close supporter of Pelosi, is anticipated to challenge Jeffries. Schiff has contacted colleagues to determine support for an run at the top job. By presiding over the Democrats’ initial impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Schiff increased his public image. The Democratic Party’s top fundraiser, who is scheduled to appear at 150 events this election cycle, is getting ready to undertake a six-day swing across California, New Hampshire, New York, and Ohio, according to a source familiar with his preparations.
Formerly friendly rivals, Jeffries and Clark are now close friends and are attempting to climb together into positions one and two, according to reports. Like Jeffries, Clark has invested time in gaining support from the caucus throughout the last two elections. The 220-member Democratic Caucus’ varied voting blocs include the Black, Hispanic, and Asian caucuses, which together make up sizable voting blocs for the Massachusetts Democrat.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, 57, the first Indian American woman to hold office in the House and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, may oppose Clark in the election. The Washington Democrat has acknowledged that she has been seeking for a new leadership position, but she has not made it clear which one she would be considering. It would be challenging for Jayapal to ascend from an ideological leader to the top position of the entire caucus, as she would require a wide base of support. She enraged moderates last year by preventing the approval of an infrastructure bill in an effort to persuade the Senate to take up Vice President Biden’s Build Back Better program. In the end, Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act, sometimes known as the Roads and Bridges Act and a scaled-back version of the Climate and Health Care Act.
In a recent meeting in her office, Jayapal told reporters, “I don’t think we miscalculated.” I’m not sure it makes sense to keep going over that, but I still believe we did a pretty darn good job of accomplishing our goals.
Aguilar, the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congress, would probably run for assistant leader number three if he were a minority, according to colleagues, while Rep. Joe Neguse, 38, a rising star in the party and the son of Eritrean immigrants, has been aggressively securing votes to succeed Jeffries as caucus chair. Both Neguse and Aguilar are skilled communicators, and neither is currently challenged. However, if there is a significant shake-up after the election, that situation might change.
“I’m going to assume that there will be opposition to everyone. One House Democrat who is closely monitoring the races said, “We’re the Democratic Party.
Candidates have flocked to the campaign for caucus vice chair, a lower-tier job, as a sign of how eager Democrats are to go up the leadership ladder. They include the Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty, 72, of Ohio, the vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Madeleine Dean, 63, of Pennsylvania, and Reps. Ted Lieu, 53, of California, and Debbie Dingell, 68, of Michigan, two co-chairs of the House Policy and Communications Committee, the Democrats’ policy and messaging arm.
Dean was also elected to Congress in the 2018 anti-Trump wave election, along with Slotkin and Phillips. Jeffries, Clark, and Aguilar, according to her, already represent “generational shift, new blood, new viewpoints, different experience and talent, and variety of geography.”
“We’ve already started moving in that direction. And that’s one of the reasons I’m running, Dean said in an interview on Friday. “I want to make sure that I contribute a set of talents, expertise, and experience to make our caucus as effective as possible.
There will undoubtedly be a change at the top three at some time, she added. “However, I’m not of the mindset to suggest that everyone has to leave when and where they do that. They have been incredibly helpful to us. I feel so fortunate to have joined them under their leadership four years ago and am so happy to serve with them.
Hoyer, Clyburn, and Pelosi have not let up in their efforts. They have been traveling the nation and running campaigns with friends in an effort to cling to the majority. According to the Democrats’ campaign committee, Pelosi has raised a staggering $213 million for her party this year, and Hoyer and Clyburn have contributed millions more to campaign funds.
When asked about Slotkin’s requests for fresh faces by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell this week, Pelosi echoed the late Raiders owner Al Davis by saying she had no issue with vulnerable members using her as a campaign prop: “Just win, baby. Just win.” However, after listing off a number of her and Biden’s legislative triumphs, the speaker said, “There’s no substitute for experience.”
There may not have been a more successful political career for Clyburn, 82, than this one. Two years ago, the South Carolinian, the highest-ranking Black congressman in Congress, acted as the kingmaker by backing Joe Biden and giving him the crucial boost he required to win the Palmetto State primary and the Democratic nomination. In turn, Biden chose Black people for important positions: Ketanji Brown Jackson joined the Supreme Court, Lloyd Austin was appointed secretary of defense, and Kamala Harris was elected vice president.
“I’m always going to be in leadership in one capacity or another at this particular moment in my life,” Clyburn said in a recent interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press Now,” adding that it might be in a “advisory” capacity.
According to Democratic sources, there is no scenario in which Jeffries and Clyburn, his buddy and political mentor, would both run for minority leader. First, that would be resolved in the Black Caucus.
Despite being active on the campaign trail, neither Clyburn nor Hoyer, both 83, have called fellow lawmakers to ask for their support, according to lawmakers. According to his campaign, Hoyer visited 57 congressional districts across 26 states while campaigning in New York with colleagues.
According to Hoyer spokeswoman Margaret Mulkerrin, Hoyer is “proud to have the support of his colleagues and the American people, and looks forward to building on this strong record by strengthening our majority and furthering efforts to ensure workers and families have the tools they need to make it in America.”
CHANGE (October 24, 2022, 3:24 PM): The historical significance of Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s 2016 election to Congress was incorrect in a previous version of this article. Not the first Indian American, she is the first Indian American woman to hold office in the U.S. House.