Dem lawmaker: Time for new generation of leadership

Dem lawmaker: Time for new generation of leadership
© Greg Nash

Democrats hoping to regain the House need to refocus their message and send a younger crop of lawmakers into the leadership ranks, says Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).

“Let’s look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘We need to reform our party. We need to make some changes,’ ” Moulton said Tuesday on SiriusXM’s “Dan Rather’s America” program.

“It’s time for a new generation of leadership in the Democratic Party that can be truly focused on the future.”

Moulton, now in his second term, was among the younger Democrats agitating for a leadership overhaul following last November’s elections — the fourth straight cycle that left the Democrats wallowing in the House minority.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) easily fended off a rare challenge to the top leadership spot she’s maintained since 2003. But Moulton’s remarks this week are an early signal that the restive group of younger Democrats remains frustrated with the party’s direction and continue to view a leadership overhaul as a necessary step toward regaining the Speaker’s gavel.

“We’ve just got to look ourselves in the mirror and realize that we lost. We lost big in 2016, and we’ve lost several elections prior to 2016 that all together have put us in one of the worst positions in our party’s history,” Moulton said.

“A lot of people are just in denial about it."

The Democrats picked up a handful of seats at the polls in November. But the gains were a far cry from the 25 seats Pelosi had predicted in the weeks previous, and the results led to a wave of grumbling from many House Democrats that the party will never win back the chamber without revamping both its campaign message and the leaders delivering it.

The Democratic detractors pointed, in particular, to the party's alienation of the middle-class, Rust Belt workers who sent President Trump to the White House and secured victories for a long list of vulnerable Republicans down the ballot. Pelosi and her top lieutenants — Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.) — are all septuagenarians representing coastal districts.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) launched a challenge to Pelosi, arguing that his experience representing a struggling manufacturing district made him the right figure to appeal to a broader swath of voters. He was defeated in a lopsided 134-63 vote in the liberal-heavy caucus. 

Pelosi has argued that her experience capturing the Speaker’s gavel in 2006, when the Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, mirrors the current dynamics and makes her the Democrats’ best hope of winning back the House.

Acknowledging the unrest, however, Pelosi also carved out a number of new leadership spots allowing younger members a louder voice. Among them, the Democrats elected Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHere are the Democrats who aren't co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban GOP struggles with retirement wave DCCC names new head after mass staff departure MORE (D-Ill.), whose rural district favored Trump, to lead the party’s policy and communications team. 

Pelosi also tapped Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthMcConnell accepts Democratic rep's challenge to 5 debates House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment White House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts MORE (D-Ky.) as ranking member of the Budget Committee, a position that puts him in the leadership ranks. 

In the eyes of Democrats like Moulton, though, those steps are insufficient to remake the party’s image and connect with voters in purple working-class regions — the very districts the Democrats will need to pick up if they hope to regain the majority.

“We need to get back in touch with Middle America and realize the role the economy plays in these elections and that our economic plan just hasn’t been resonating with many Americans,” said Moulton. 

“We have a great opportunity right now because of our president being just so incompetent,” he added. “But if Democrats don’t have an alternative plan, if our only alternative is just to say, ‘Well we’re not quite as bad as the Republicans,’ then I don’t think a lot of people will vote for us.”