Your browser does not support JavaScript Derailing Pelosi’s Bid for Speaker May Create Leadership Vacuum - Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy - Christopher Newport University Derailing Pelosi’s Bid for Speaker May Create Leadership Vacuum
Skip navigation

Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

November 20, 2018

Derailing Pelosi’s Bid for Speaker May Create Leadership Vacuum

Issue / National

Nancy Pelosi speaking

With no heir apparent, derailing Nancy Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the Speaker’s gavel could create a leadership vacuum and expose deep fissures in the Democratic Party’s coalition that have largely been hidden during the Trump Era. As of now, the majority of so-called “Never Nancy” House Democrats hail from the moderate wing of the party, not from the progressive wing. Despite the fact that many far left progressives prefer a different Speaker so far, Pelosi has largely held onto their support. Instead, she finds herself fighting an insurgency predominately from the center of her caucus.

Should the “Never Nancy” coalition succeed in subverting her ascension they may find they have kicked a hornet's nest. Because no consensus alternative has emerged, the vacuum created by a failed bid by Pelosi could ignite a costly war for control of the party. Ostensibly, the majority of the 16 House Democrats who signed yesterday’s letter stating they will not support Pelosi for Speaker are motivated by their preference to push the party to the center-left and appease Independent voters in their districts. However, only two names have been floated thus far as alternatives to Nancy Pelosi: Barbara Lee and Marcia Fudge. Both women hail from the progressive wing of the party. Fudge is the 14th most liberal member of the House while Lee is 2nd most liberal.

Right now, the most likely result of a derailed Pelosi bid would be a damaging turf war between the progressive wing of the party and the party’s so-called “Establishment” wing. Largely placated now, an opportunity to gain control of the party’s leadership would likely galvanize progressives, who would prefer a Speaker who will take a much more aggressive stand against President Trump. On the other side, it's hard to imagine that the moderate signatories to yesterday’s letter opposing Pelosi would vote to support a Speaker from the ideological extremes of the party’s caucus. Some of these signatories, particularly the incoming freshman, used their intent to vote against Pelosi as an electoral carrot to woo over Independent voters as they sought to dethrone Republican incumbents and win districts previously held by the Republican Party. Ironically, these members may find themselves having to cast a ballot for a much more combative Speaker than the mild-mannered tactician Nancy Pelosi.

Like the Republican Party’s sharp conservative shift since 2010, today’s Democratic Party House caucus is populated by more liberals than centrists. Post Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss against Donald Trump in 2016, the center of gravity in the Democratic Party has clearly shifted from the center towards the left. Despite winning over Independents unhappy with Trump, the bulk of the Democrat’s impressive 40+ seat gain in the 2018 Blue Wave is the product of a newly energized and agitated Democratic Party base, particularly suburban college-educated women and women of color. It is difficult to imagine Democrats elevating a Blue Dog Democrat to head the party under these conditions, but it is equally difficult to imagine swing-seat Democrats supporting a progressive Democrat either.

With only a 16 or 17 seat majority, Democrats may find themselves locked in a self-inflicted Civil War much to the delight of House Republicans.

Report a problem
Version 3.4