In a normal political world, Nancy Pelosi’s 203-32 victory in the Democratic caucus of the House of Representatives would have assured her the speakership when the full House votes on Jan. 3. But this is no normal world we live in these days. With perhaps 235 Democrats and no alternative candidate to Pelosi announced, 32 Democrats pledge to block her for speaker by not voting when the House reconvenes. They would deny her the requisite 218 votes.
Regardless of your position on Pelosi, whom I strongly support, this is yet another step in the direction of the chaos politics that has overtaken how we govern. What will happen when the 32 abstain? No one knows. The anti-Pelosi Democrats say that someone else would emerge, but they don’t know who. Just not Pelosi. It is bad leadership on their part and sets a terrible precedent.
The strategy by Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Tim Ryan of Ohio and our own Kathleen Rice of Garden City, along with their cohorts, would alter the majority-rule standard used to select caucus leaders and replace it with a near-unanimity standard that empowers any fringe group of the majority. The group would veto the overwhelming choice of that majority and force it into a protracted cycle of wrangling, negotiating and multiple balloting until a compromise candidate acceptable to the entire caucus can be determined. That is a standard that will yield not the most effective leader, but the least unacceptable one.
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