The Un-Organized Democrats

“I do not belong to an unorganized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

This old statement by Will Rogers continues to be true. Currently, the Democrats are waging an unfortunate fight over which Democrat will be speaker of the House, now that they have regained control.

Winning the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives by the Democrats was a big deal. The House can once again exercise its oversight mandate. This change in governance might work to slow the destruction of some American institutions–like the Justice Department, the FBI, and the intelligence agencies–by reestablishing the role of the House as a co-equal branch of government, and not just a tool of President Trump as it has been over the past two years under the Republicans.

While the agencies above have problematic pasts, they are key components of the functioning federal government. Nevertheless, true to its nature, the Democratic party seems to be refusing to be organized.

As things stand, they will have very good leaders of important Congressional committees going forward and a legendary legislator in Nancy Pelosi. But many are fighting against her, despite all that Pelosi has done.

Pelosi almost singlehandedly pushed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through Congress in 2010 when some of Obama’s staff wanted to discontinue the fight. Yes, ACA, the health insurance program that won the House this fall for the Democrats. Since 2002 she has raised $680 million for her party.

Recently, Paul Krugman listed some of her other achievements in calling her the greatest leader of the House in modern times. As minority leader, she played a crucial role in turning back George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security. And she helped pass Obama’s stimulus plan, which economists overwhelmingly agree limited job losses from the financial crisis in 2008-9.

It is hard to find a good rationale for the opposition to Pelosi. However, some newly elected Democratic representatives have vowed to not work with Nancy Pelosi. Why?

Two reasons pop up. One is that the moderate to conservative Democrats are following the Republican lead in seeing Pelosi as the boogeyman. The other is that she is a woman. And neither is acceptable. In this season of female political empowerment, Pelosi’s power still rankles. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, in a local legislative race in Pennsylvania last March, nearly 60 percent of the GOP’s ads consisted of attacks on Pelosi, while seven percent of the Democrat’s ads featured the candidate assuring voters he did not support Pelosi. In 2016, 63 House Democrats—nearly one-third—voted against her for leader. No one argued that Pelosi’s challenger, Ohio Representative Tim Ryan, could manage the caucus better, negotiate better deals with Trump or better shepherd complicated legislation through the unruly House. They just wanted change.

We need the Democrats to avoid being a circular firing squad. The future of the Country is dependent on expert management of the doomed circus in which we find ourselves with Donald Trump.