It’s been two years of soul-searching and restructuring for the Democrats since the 2016 election when Republicans won the presidency, the House of Representatives and Senate. Now, it is time to enact the strategy they have formulated throughout these past two years in order to try and win the House and the Senate back in November. Thus far, this strategy has been to largely focus messaging on the economy, as it is a salient and relatable issue. Economic inequality is rising, causing major resentment and unease. The Democrats are certainly the major party that is more likely to address this inequality, as they have a stronger background of enacting such policy.
In a perfect world, that would be all that matters. Democrats have the better policy for the issues of today, and thus, they should be elected. However, the messaging is not always so easy. In fact, much of the messaging has nothing to do with the economy, or policy at all, because our era is so insanely polarized that all of that takes a back seat to partisan politics. What rallies Republicans together more than anything? Shared disdain for Democratic leadership, namely Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D–Calif, the minority leader in the House. More than a third of Republican attack ads are focused on Pelosi, and she is a major aspect of the Republican strategy for keeping control of the House in November. The ads link Democratic House candidates to Pelosi and then attempt to link Pelosi to a host of ridiculous accusations, such as secretly being in support of MS-13. Unfortunately, this strategy is influential, and Democrats are not in a position to take any risks in this election. Thus, I would encourage Pelosi to remove fuel from the fire and step down before November midterms.
Further, many Democrats aren’t particularly enthused about the leader, either. This is especially true of Democrats in swing states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, because the moderate vote is so important, and the anti-establishment message is loud. Notably, these are states that Donald Trump won in 2016, and they are important to potentially flip the House. The connection to Pelosi appears toxic for those in tight races. Some candidates have gone so far as to say they will not vote for her if elected, while others simply speak vaguely of new leadership.
Clearly, she is not presently a popular political figure — but why? Of course, some of it is pure Republican strategizing. Their party is split between Trump’s nationalist populism and the more traditional fiscal conservatism — two economic visions that are quite at odds. Thus, rather than bridge that divide through seeking middle ground candidates or smart policy, they have decided to unite through use of a common enemy found in Pelosi. But why is her own party turning on her? Of course, a good portion of the animosity is both ageist and misogynistic. She’s a 78-year-old woman, and thus people believe her time has passed. We rarely hear that a man is getting too old for the job, so this aspect of the Pelosi problem is unfortunate and unfair.
However, it is not entirely about her age or gender. Nancy Pelosi has been the House Democratic leader for 16 years, including during the 2010 elections, when the Democrats lost 63 House seats — a loss the party has yet to recover from. From that perspective, it does not seem that she has been particularly effective in rallying voters. The Democratic Party lost the past four House elections, even as they won the presidency in 2012 with the re-election of then-President Barack Obama. Furthermore, after serving as leader for so long, Pelosi truly is the establishment. She has consistently rejected a turn toward left-wing economics, even as the party has shown an enthusiasm for it through the popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders, D–Vt., in 2016 and the recent primary elections of progressive candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. These reasons support the notion that she should step down before November in order to reinvigorate Democrats and cut off a core Republican strategy.
With fresh messaging should come fresh faces. This cannot be the Democratic Party of 2016 unless we want to lose like the Democratic Party of 2016. We need to update our leadership to represent the party of economic and social justice for the whole country. Rep. Tim Ryan, D–Ohio, challenged Pelosi after the 2016 election, and he has indicated he might do so again. Having party leadership from a Rust Belt state rather than California or New York would be a refreshing and welcome change for the party.
Above all else, we need party leadership that can ensure a win in November. Between separating families, continuing corporate tax cuts and defending our adversaries, the state of the Democratic Party and the country as a whole is incredibly dire, . The Republicans are using Pelosi as a way to fire up their voters, and there is too much at stake to lose any votes. Hopefully, Pelosi will step down and allow room for another Democrat to rise and carry this party forward.
Margot Libertini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.