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Solomon writes: "When Democrats take control of the House in early January, they'll have two kinds of leadership - one from the top of the party's power pyramid, the other from its base. With formal control, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer can brandish huge carrots and sticks to keep Democratic lawmakers in line. With grassroots support, a growing number of those lawmakers can - and should - strategically step out of line to fight for progressive agendas."

Representative Nancy Pelosi has been holding a series of private sessions to wear down her critics and win support from her detractors. (photo: Erin Schaff/NYT)
Representative Nancy Pelosi has been holding a series of private sessions to wear down her critics and win support from her detractors. (photo: Erin Schaff/NYT)


The Backstory on the Pelosi Leadership Flap

By Norman Solomon, Reader Supported News

27 November 18

 

hen Democrats take control of the House in early January, they’ll have two kinds of leadership – one from the top of the party’s power pyramid, the other from its base. With formal control, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer can brandish huge carrots and sticks to keep Democratic lawmakers in line. With grassroots support, a growing number of those lawmakers can – and should – strategically step out of line to fight for progressive agendas.

Pelosi and Hoyer have been running the Democratic machinery in the House of Representatives since 2003, and they’re experts at combining liberal rhetoric with corporate flackery. Pelosi is frequently an obstacle to advancing progressive proposals. Hoyer is significantly worse as he avidly serves such “constituents” as giant banks, Pentagon contractors and other Wall Street titans. Together, the two have often functioned as top-drawer power tools in the hands of powerful corporate-military interests.

Pelosi is a longtime wizard at generating and funneling hundreds of millions of election-cycle dollars, and as speaker she’ll wield enormous power over committee assignments. But she must keep Democratic House members minimally satisfied – and along the way that should mean yielding more power to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Buoyed by wins in the midterm elections, the caucus includes two-fifths of all Democrats in the House.

That’s where the other kind of leadership comes in – if a hefty number of self-identified progressives in Congress go to the mat to vigorously represent progressive constituencies. For that to happen, a dubious aspect of the Progressive Caucus past must not repeat itself.

“When historic votes come to the House floor, party functionaries are able to whip the Progressive Caucus into compliance,” I wrote six years ago. A grim pattern set in during the Obama presidency, “with many Progressive Caucus members making fine statements of vigorous resolve – only to succumb on the House floor under intense pressure from the Obama administration.”

Backing down had tragic consequences for the nation’s healthcare system. In September 2009, Progressive Caucus leaders sent a letter to President Obama pledging not to vote for any healthcare bill “without a robust public option.” They wrote: “Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, a public option built on the Medicare provider system and with reimbursement based on Medicare rates – not negotiated rates – is unacceptable.” Six months later, every member of the Progressive Caucus abandoned the demand and voted for a healthcare bill with no public option at all.

In recent years, the leadership of the Progressive Caucus has become more impressive. The current mix of leaders and new members – which includes veteran lawmaker Raul Grijalva, more recent House arrivals like Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna, and notable incoming progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – seems to augur well.

There are encouraging signs that Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders are using new leverage to gain more power for progressives. After meeting with Pelosi on November 15, Co-Chair Pocan and First Vice-Chair Jayapal released a statement saying “we are pleased that Leader Pelosi shares our commitment to ensuring that CPC members are represented proportionally on the key exclusive committees – including Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Appropriations, Financial Services and Intelligence.”

Progressive leaders can gain persuasive influence largely because they’re advocating for proposals that – as polling verifies – have wide support from the U.S. public, such as a $15-an-hour minimum wage (59 percent), Medicare for All (70 percent), progressive criminal justice reform (65 percent) and higher taxes on the wealthy (76 percent). Behind such political agenda items is an activist base eager to achieve many programs that have been obstructed by most top-ranking Democrats in Congress.

Clearly, much of the Democratic Party’s momentum is now coming from the left. And many of the positions that the timeworn Democratic leadership has staked out are now being overrun – outmatched by the cumulative power of dynamic social movements that have generated electoral clout. Medicare for All is a case in point, with numerous likely Democratic presidential candidates climbing on board.

Ultimately, the most profound progressive leadership for Congress isn’t in Congress at all. It’s in communities and movements across the country – nurturing diverse progressive strengths in many aspects of social change, including at election time.

No matter how intense the top-down pressure gets from Speaker Pelosi, we should insist from the bottom up that members of Congress stand their ground for progressive principles. And – no matter how fervently they embrace the “progressive” label – if congressmembers aren’t willing to fight for those principles, then the grassroots should mobilize: to create an outcry, to lobby, and to consider launching primary challenges. No elected officials should be immune from scrutiny and accountability.

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Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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+4 # DongiC 2018-11-27 14:05
Keep the pressure on guys (Progressives per se) and if the Democrats waver, then take your case to the voters. Time for a change in the Democratic Party as well as the neanderthal GOP. For too long Progressive legislation has been blocked by reactionary forces in Congress. This has got to change.
 
 
+6 # elizabethblock 2018-11-27 22:25
Yes. Good for the people, good for the country, and btw good for the Democratic Party, which obviously needs to give people a reason to vote for it.
 
 
0 # lorenbliss 2018-11-28 00:56
Wake up, people. After the unprecedented betrayal inflicted on us by "change we can believe in," imagining that ANY elected member of the Democratic (sic) will EVER enact genuinely progressive legislation is akin to believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Great Pumpkin.
 
 
+3 # OrlandoDFree 2018-11-28 06:14
Solomon faults the progressive House Democrats for backing down on the public option. But at that point, Senate Democrats had just lost their filibuster-proo f majority. This made it simply impossible to make any changes to the imperfect bill that the Senate had passed. So the only way to get health care reform signed into law was for the House to pass the Senate's bill. The choices were to accept the bill without its public option, or pass nothing at all. Under those circumstances, they did the right thing.
 
 
+4 # AlexG 2018-11-29 02:26
RE Orlando's remarks above:
In my re-reading of the timeline & details of events leading up to what became the ACA bill [which emerged from the Senate and was finally/also passed by the House in 2010, it looks like it was initially the Senate Democrats in 2009, prodded by conservative Democrat Max Baucus at the behest of Obama, who failed altogether to fight for inclusion of several progressive provisions in the proto-final ACA Senate bill --most notably a 'Public Option' provision.
By the time the final Baucus-ACA Senate bill reached and was pased-by the House, it was basically the same ACA bill that had been drafted at the outset by Baucus's Senate aide --a former HC Insurance Industry lobbyist.
What soon became known as "Obamacare" was from the beginning an Industry-writte n consumer scam, blame for which is squarely on the shoulders of the same corporate Democrats who still rule their Party to this day.
 
 
+9 # relegn 2018-11-28 07:17
The more progressive legislation that Progressives can bring to a vote in the House,even if it dies or is watered-down in the Senate, over the next two years will have a great impact on the platform and the candidates that enter the field in 2020. The harder Progressives push their legislation over the next two years the easier the fight in 2020 will be.
 
 
0 # SnowBrdr 2018-11-29 11:20
As usual, Norman speaks clearly & truthfully. I do take exception to the closing remark: "the grassroots should mobilize: to create an outcry, to lobby, and to consider launching primary challenges".

We are beyond 'considering primary challenges', it is an establishment game to offer the 'carrot' of considerations and then withdraw all consideration in a fait accompli of corporate 'centralism’ - for the "good" (read: corp. money) of the Party.

Now is the time to search for and promote candidates to fight for the principles that protect and uplift all persons that meet the true challenge of a government "Of, By & For the People".
 
 
-1 # BKnowswhitt 2018-11-29 13:59
Finally you've hit on something. Pelosi also brought the phoney global warming scherade from CA .. to Obama .. then the shift to only 'friendly' studies with the result intended (political science) along with huge federal alternative energy funding - mostly solar and wind (they won't run the grid) - and along with her elite corporate democrat policies .. she is one reason Trump won .. voters are not dumb .. and new leadership other than these two is necessary .. but alas .. likely will not happen ..
 

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