Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Question for Liberals

Who would you like to be the next Speaker of the House? If the answer is Nancy Pelosi (b. 1940, so she just turned 71), who is your second choice?


  1. First choice: Pelosi.

    Second choice: Among current members? Barney Frank, I suppose.

    I know he's the same age as Pelosi, but he seems pretty sharp (as does she).

  2. After Pelosi? If there's a majority in 2013, I assume she returns. If the majority comes back later, I'd like Xavier Becerra (53).

  3. Ideologically, Dennis Kucinich, organizationally (probably more important for this particular job) Barney Frank

  4. Wasserman-Schultz. Though Barney would be a lot more fun to watch. I wouldn't mind Anthony Weiner either, but that's just dreaming.

  5. Becerra has a lot of potential. I don't know how influential he is across the board (ideologically) within the democratic caucus, but he definitely has one of the most fluid minds in Congress, makes convincing cases backed with real substance and has a phenomenally pleasant personality.

  6. Alan Grayson. He's running again, right?

  7. Definitely Pelosi. But if it has to be someone else, John Larson or Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

  8. Who am I to judge? Most of a Speaker's skill is playing the inside game, hard for us to judge. I was a fan of Pelosi for a long time without a clue that she would turn out to be Speaker, let alone an outstandingly successful one.

    That said, you get the sense that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on the track. Becerra I'm not so aware of (but he may be on the track too). I love Barney Frank, but I'll guess that his greatest talent is the outside game.

  9. Anthony Weiner. There's not a better spokesman for the progressive movement. Barney Frank would also be excellent.

  10. I'm not sure how well Wasserman-Schultz does inside the Caucus, but I know that everyone expects Becerra to be a comer relatively soon.

    I think she's better placed in running the DNC, at least for now. She's built a reputation as being tough and working hard, as well as being canny, such as campaigning for anti-choice Heath Shuler, among others.

    Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson lack the team-player sensibilities that would drive them to be Speaker. They'd operate more like Schumer in the Senate in keeping the party on message, but are unlikely to have the heft to whip votes. I think Frank's run out the clock on being the first Gay Speaker, unfortunately, given his age and Pelosi's, as well as the costs of pulling off Dodd-Frank.

    I toyed with Larson and Van Hollen, but they both strike me as shrewd lieutenants rather than captains.

  11. Eric Cantor. Kidding.

    Actually just commenting to note my surprise that no one wants CVH (my lefty friends in grad school seemed to think of him as just as competent and hard-working as Rahm but more trustworthy) and that no one's even thought of poor Steny Hoyer. Though Van Hollen's shown interest in the Senate, which is an opportunity Becerra probably won't have unless Feinstein leaves to run for Governor.

  12. Another vote for Pelosi or Frank.

  13. @ The Classicist: Steny Hoyer is gross. He gave excessive aid and comfort to the Blue Dogs during HCR and is generally the lesser light of the party and something of a necessary evil. Plus, he's older than Pelosi, and it strikes me as unlikely that he'd win the Big Chair at any point in the future, rather than retiring to be party elder statesman after Pelosi is done being Speaker and retires from the House altogether.

    I do like CVH, but he's hampered by having Hoyer in leadership right now and took a hit (probably unfairly) for the 2010 losses, which maybe he comes back from, maybe not.

    Feinstein probably dies in office, and has probably one or two more terms in her, which I think is unfortunate given her VORP. I don't think Milkulski or Cardin is leaving any time soon for CVH, all the more the pity.

  14. Oh, I know Steny Hoyer has no Internet fan base -- but it's still notable that no one mentioned the second-in-command who (contra much of the rest of the leadership, e.g. John "I just live here" Larson) has maintained a power base independent of Pelosi's, who's previously challenged Pelosi and previously demonstrated Speakerly ambition. But yes, he and Clyburn are very old. And yes, 2010 was bad news for Van Hollen. You're also right about Senate runs. I was wrong about Mikulski's age: I'd thought she was about 80, but she's actually 75, younger than Feinstein.

  15. Whatever is the case with Hoyer's internet fanbase or lack thereof, I dunno, but I say this as a former Democratic Congressional Staffer, for a period in which Hoyer worked hard to find a place to just piss the party off for no real reason/gain.

    I'm also less certain of his actual constituency of support right now, let alone a future congress; some of the votes against Pelosi were catch-and-release, and some were from fools like Heath Shuler who'd never vote for her anyway. Though he's raised lots of money and given lots of it away, and received the endorsements of Berman, Waxman, and Frank as minority leader, I strongly doubt that that could translate into being Speaker in 2013 or 2019, whenever Pelosi leaves or steps down. I'd be much less surprised if Steve Israel, CVH, Becerra, Wasserman-Schultz or someone else came up with the jump ball then; there's lots of rising stars that more accurately represent the party's constituencies at present and into the future, and they're only going to get more powerful, not less.

    Hoyer's been in office for over thirty years now, and has not amassed the kind of loyalties and cross-factional support he would need to be the Speaker. Further, by the time the spot is likely to open up, when Pelosi retires at or around, say, eighty, he's going to be eighty-four or so. The people in the past who've made it up the chain to be Speaker usually get that spot (Tip O'Neill, Carl Alberts) at around the twenty year mark, and then go down again from there and retire/die.

    Redistricting plus shifts in the underlying demographics of the country are going to make registered Democratic voters less like Hoyer, rather than more.

    I'd also hasten to point out that Pelosi's second in command has always been Miller, then Clyburn, then Murtha. Hoyer is her professional pain in the ass.

    To our gracious host: is there any good social science work out there on the way that the parties' leadership positions change over time based on member performance, or when party leadership peaks/retires?

    The current senior leadership plus chairman were elected between 1975-1983, and I can't imagine that they'll continue to control the Caucus going into their third/four decade in office, if they stay that long.

  16. McDevite! I'm sorry I didn't reply when you were more likely to see this (I was gone for yom tov, plus traveling), but if you do see it: thanks awfully for such detailed, thorough responses to comments that basically amounted to "huh, how about that?" on my part. And JB, if you see this -- even besides your posts, the commenting community you've fostered, in which knowledgeable professionals like McDevite interact with and educate curious layfolk, is really a great thing. Even two years ago I just would have had no way of learning much beyond my shallow impression of "Steny Hoyer doesn't seem very popular even though he appears to have some things going for him. Huh, how about that?" without, like, dropping my thesis and taking up politics, or else just relying on netroots gossip, for which I have little patience. So I thank you -- I may be a little more of a junkie than I would have been without your blog, but I'm certainly learning more about How Things Work in politics than I would be, which makes it an investment (not a waste!) of time.

  17. Classicist,

    Thanks for the kind words. I am really happy with the quality of the comments and commenters around here -- that's one of the main reasons I began weekend questions threads, because I find the answers so interesting. And, BTW, worth mentioning again that I read all comments, even to dead-ish threads, including the ones I don't get around to responding to.

    McDevite -- that's a good question, and I'm not sure that there is any research into leadership cohorts, where leaders come from, etc. There's some research on the Watergate babies, and the Newt babies, but that's not the same thing.

    Vaguely relevant plug: it's not social science (John was a first-rate journalist), but I do highly recommend John Jacobs' bio of Phil Burton, A Rage for Justice.


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