Dems in Disarray Over Pelosi and Party’s Future

Liberal lawmakers clash on need for new leaders, fret over lack of economic message

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 05 Jul 2017 at 2:19 PM

Just days after their party received a crushing blow in a special election for Georgia’s Sixth District, Democratic lawmakers struggled to agree on a way forward to repair their party’s electoral fortunes.

On the Sunday shows, Democratic members of Congress particularly clashed over whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should continue to lead their caucus. Republicans spent approximately $4.5 million on ads during the Georgia race tying Ossoff to Pelosi and her liberal, California values.

“But the reality is the fact that we have to go into 2018 with a leader who has been damaged, and the caucus at the end of the day has to make a decision,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “But let’s make no mistake about it: this is not about us having a family fight publicly. We’ve got to have this discussion.”

Ryan, who challenged Pelosi for her position as minority leader in November 2016 following the Democratic Party's crushing losses across the board, has been among the most vocal Democrats insisting the party look to new leadership and focus on establishing an economic message for voters.

"But the reality of it is — and why I get so worked up about things like this — is because if we're not in power ... we can't help anybody. This isn't just a fight to have a fight," Ryan said. "We've got to have these discussions because we owe it to our constituents. We owe it to the American people to put us in a position to be able to fight for them."

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) joined Ryan on "Meet the Press" to discuss the Party's Pelosi problem. Although Dingell agreed that the Democrats needed to unify around a different message, she said Pelosi should stay where she is.

"I think that if each of us doesn't start taking some responsibility for the leadership we have and start acting like a 'we,' we're not going to win. And that's one of our biggest problems," Dingell said. "So we've got to stop this finger-pointing, and each of us has got to learn how we're going to become part of the 'we' and the community that's going to win."

Responding to criticism that Pelosi is in her late 70s and should let younger Democrats take up her leadership mantle, Dingell argued that "the representative government is people of all generations, all ages."

"We've got to come together, and each of us has got to take responsibility for what we are as part of that 'we,'" she added.

Ryan, however, said it was wrong not to acknowledge the part that Pelosi obviously played in Ossoff's loss.

"I think it would be hard for us to say after $5 million dollars being spent tying that candidate to her, that it didn't have some effect. I mean, the Republicans wouldn't still be using this if it didn't have some effect. And so it's still being used for a reason, and I think that's a discussion that we need to have," Ryan said. "But we do need to have a family discussion."

Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) executive director Corry Bliss told The Hill that Republicans will continue to tie Democratic candidates to Pelosi heading into 2018. CLF, a super PAC, spent nearly $7 million in the Georgia election.

"Nancy Pelosi will be front and center in the millions of dollars we're going to spend over the next two years across the country," Bliss said. "This midterm is going to be a referendum on Nancy Pelosi and her San Francisco liberal values."

"That's what the elections are going to be about ... We saw a little glimpse of that on Tuesday," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, while loath to criticize Pelosi directly, argued that "the number-one lesson from Georgia 6th" should be that "Democrats need a strong, bold, sharp-edged and common-sense economic agenda, policy, platform, message that appeal to the middle class, that resonate with the middle class and ... unite Democrats."

"They always blame the leader. I think if we come up with this strong, bold economic package, it will change things around. That's what we were missing," Schumer said. "People don't like Trump. He's at 40 percent [approval]. But they say, 'What the heck do the Democrats stand for?' Ryan has a point here. We better stand for something, and it can't be baby steps." (go to page 2 to continue reading)

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