On the side
In an email seeking campaign contributions, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, wrote: “As one of the most pro-Trump Republicans anywhere in Congress, I am under daily attack from D.C. liberals and the media who still have not accepted last year’s election results. If our campaign’s [Federal Election Commission] report shows any signs of weakness, they will pounce, ramping up their efforts to defeat me and pour money into the campaign of a Democrat challenger.” Johnson is a solid fundraiser in a safe Republican district with no Democratic challenger to date.
Readers of my column know how much I love the Austintown Fourth of July Parade – the candy, the sweaty politicians, being with my family. As I wrote last year, I don’t have plans to attend the parade anymore as my two daughters are adults, leaving my wife and I standing next to little kids getting candy thrown at us. But Austintown Township Trustee Jim Davis asked me to be a judge at this year’s event and be in the parade. I accepted so look for me in the back of a convertible throwing candy.
After Democrats greatly underperformed in the November 2016 election, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan placed much of the blame on his political party’s inability to connect with middle America.
So Ryan challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her post. While Ryan brought up valid issues about Pelosi’s shortcomings and overall problems with the Democratic Party, the House Democratic Caucus voted 134 to 63 to retain the incumbent.
In the past 10 days, Ryan of Howland, D-13th, returned to the national spotlight by criticizing Pelosi after Democrats lost two more special elections last week for House seats vacated by Republicans who left to join the administration of President Donald Trump. Democrats lost two other special elections under the same circumstances earlier this year.
All four seats were in safe Republican areas, but after Democrats and their allies spent tens of millions of dollars on a race in Georgia – the most expensive House race in the nation’s history – that became competitive and lost, Ryan had enough.
“The leadership is saying that we did better than we thought we would” in the special elections, he said. “The growing frustration of others, including me, is they’re accepting that we came in second, and it was all positive.”
He was all over the national news, both print and television, joining a small but vocal group of Democrats calling for Pelosi to step down as House Democratic leader.
Pelosi, a lightening rod for controversy for her liberal positions, has refused to resign.
Republicans vow to continue to tie Pelosi to Democratic candidates, even if there’s little to no connection. Millions of dollars were spent in last week’s Georgia election linking Democrat Jon Ossoff to Pelosi.
It obviously played a factor in his defeat.
Democrats who want to keep Pelosi as House leader say she is a strong fundraiser for the party.
But as the Georgia race showed, Democrats can outspend Republicans and still lose so having more money, along with the anchor of Pelosi as its House leader, doesn’t help the party.
Pelosi has been the party’s House leader for 15 years, including four years as speaker, which means she’s got a lot of history and baggage that can and has been used against the party.
Ryan turned up the criticism when I spoke to him a few days ago. I asked if the entire House Democratic leadership team should go, and he said yes.
Again, no one is going to resign his or her leadership position.
[The article ran Thursday and obviously CNN monitors The Vindicator as Ryan was on the news network later that day to talk about health care and was asked specifically about what he told me about leadership.]
If the Democratic Party is going to be relevant – particularly with polls showing Trump with low approval ratings – in the 2018 election, new faces in leadership are needed, Ryan said.
“Nothing has changed since the last election, but there’s a lot more grumbling about it,” he said.
Democrats hope to gain control of the House and Senate in next year’s election. Midterm elections usually benefit the party that doesn’t control the White House.
“It’s still possible, but it makes it harder with current leadership,” Ryan said. “With Trump doing what he’s doing, it can be done. But if leadership stays the same, we’ve seen the playbook, and it doesn’t work.”
Democrats have “got to talk about what we can do for people and not how bad Trump is,” he said. “We’ve got to stay focused. We’ve got to focus on saying we’re Democrats and we want to do the things to make people’s lives better.”
Ryan points out that “social issues are important, but most of the message needs to be economic in nature. Everybody wants a job, a secure pension and lower energy costs. Some people don’t have the bandwidth to care about social issues because they’re concerned about their own financial situation and their own family.”
While Ryan sounds as if he wants to challenge Pelosi again, he said he won’t do so.
“I spoke my peace and ran against her,” he said. “It’s not in the cards for me. I don’t want my criticism of the current situation to seem self-serving.”
But it certainly has people in D.C. talking.