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Nancy Pelosi's Move To The Left Triggered A Blue Dog Revolt

The Blue Dogs want to stop progressives from taking over the party. Good luck with that.
Image via The Hill

Image via The Hill

There are two popular depictions of Nancy Pelosi. She is either an establishment Democrat opposed to progress or she's a radical leftist with San Francisco coastal elitist values etc. etc. The first is believed by people on the far left who hate the Democratic Party and don't actually know anything about Pelosi and the second is, in fact, true. We know this because now that the Progressive Caucus just got a whole lot larger in the House, the Blue Dogs, who do know Pelosi, freaked out:

Groups like MoveOn, Daily Kos, and Indivisible are keeping a close eye on the list of 16 Democrats who recently released a letter saying they’ll vote against Pelosi.

“If right-wing Democrats end up helping Republicans by voting against Nancy Pelosi as speaker, they can expect to face serious backlash from the same energized and mobilized base of progressive voters that just brought Democrats a majority in the House. Which certainly could extend to primaries,” MoveOn spokesperson Karthik Ganapathy told Vox in a statement.

This underscores the point that the opposition to Pelosi isn’t coming from the left; it’s coming from the party’s centrist wing. The group of so-called “rebels” is largely made up of moderates who are members of the New Democrats and Blue Dogs.

The moderates were just fine with Pelosi when they were the power in the party because Pelosi is extremely good at her job. Obama recently called her "one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen." That means she will work with what she has to get the job done and if that means tacking towards the center to make progress, so be it. That's where the "establishment shill" caricature comes from; spread by people with a weak grasp on how politics work.

Now that the moderates are no longer the power in the party (at least in the House), Pelosi has moved right back to her natural position on the left:

Pelosi was one of the early members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which was started in the early 1990s by then-Rep. Bernie Sanders. Pelosi voted against the Iraq War in 2002 and was a champion of marriage equality well before the issue hit the mainstream. Her success passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010 has won her legions of supporters on the party’s left wing, especially as President Donald Trump and the Republicans have tried to repeal the health care law.

When climate activists showed up in her office with Ocasio-Cortez on the first day of new member orientation to demand the new Congress take action on climate change, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms. She tweeted her support for the protest and encouraged the creation of a new subcommittee to examine and address climate issues.

The right doesn't fear and hate Pelosi just for fun. She's a woman. That's strike one. She's phenomenally good at her job. That's strike two. She's an unabashed leftist. That's strike three and makes her the next best thing to Satan in the GOP's book.

Those last two strikes also make her a threat to moderate and conservative Democrats for a very specific reason:

After keeping quiet for weeks, progressives announced late last week that they had cut a deal with Pelosi, agreeing to put more progressive members on key committees including Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Appropriations, Financial Services, and Intelligence.

Progressives are playing the long game. By getting more members on powerful committees, they are building an influential base of support within Congress and laying the framework for more progressive candidates to ascend into leadership in future years.

If Pelosi is now engaging in building the future of a Post-Pelosi Democratic Party by elevating people more in line with her ideology, that's a problem for people who would prefer a more centrist movement. Hence, the sudden need to replace her with someone to her right.

Considering one of the more persistent gripes of moderates is that progressives like Bernie Sanders tried to take over the party from the top down, you'd think they would be thrilled to see them doing it the right way, from the ground up. But that doesn't seem to be the case if the likely-doomed-to-failure revolt is anything to go by. This leads one to suspect that the griping has less about how progressives are trying to influence the party than it is that they're exerting influence at all.

If that's the case. Blue Dogs are going to be in for a rough decade because, despite Trump's emboldening of white nationalism, only the right is moving in that direction (and only part of it at that). The rest of the country is continuing its slow and steady march towards the left. Blue Dogs can either get on board or get out of the way. What they won't be able to do is stop it by taking over the party from the top.