Pelosi fends off challenge to leadership
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday fended off a challenge to her long leadership reign, defeating Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in a closed-door vote prompted largely by Donald Trump
’s unlikely ascension to the White House.
Pelosi got 134 votes to Ryan’s 63 — winning 68 percent of the votes after declaring before the election that she had the support of two-thirds of the caucus. The victory sends a message that while there’s a growing appetite for major changes in the party’s leadership structure and messaging tactics, it’s not strong enough to loosen Pelosi’s grip on a liberal-heavy group that’s rarely challenged her authority.
Ryan and his supporters had argued that the Democrats’ grim performance in this year’s elections — the latest in a string of cycles planting Republicans firmly in the majority — was a clear signal that Pelosi’s leadership strategy has failed to attract the broad coalition of voters required to return the Speaker’s gavel to the Democrats’ hands.
The critics pointed, in particular, to the party’s alienation of the middle-class Rust Belt workers, who flocked to Trump and secured victories for a long list of vulnerable Republicans down the ballot. Ryan, who represents an Ohio manufacturing district that’s struggled to keep pace with globalization and rebound from the Great Recession, said he was the right fit to make inroads with those voters.
Most Democrats disagreed, opting to keep Pelosi and her top lieutenants — Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Jim Clyburn (S.C.) — in charge of efforts to improve the party’s fortunes heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
Ryan said after the vote that even though he lost, the 63 votes he won showed a desire to reform the House Democratic leadership structure and bring new members into the fold.
“I think it sends a message that a lot of people felt like maybe they weren’t getting heard,” Ryan told reporters. “Now, they think there’s a much better chance that they will. I think more people are inclined to speak out now.”