Speaker Pelosi, for now

Akron Beacon Journal: U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge reported that her Friday meeting with Nancy Pelosi was “very open and frank.” The Democrat, who represents Akron and Cleveland, along with parts in between, made her point about some in the caucus feeling left behind and the need for a transition to new leadership. Fudge said she still is giving thought to challenging Pelosi for House speaker.

Fudge isn’t one to express lightly or loosely such concerns. She most likely would be effective in a leadership position, and House Democrats, as they move into the majority role, must begin to make way for the next generation of lawmakers to step up. Pelosi is age 78, having served as the caucus leader for 16 years, including four years as speaker starting in 2007. Her lieutenants, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, also are in their upper 70s.

The question for Democrats is whether this is the precise moment for change. It is hard to see the case.

Many have noted the oddity: Other caucus leaders fared poorly on Election Day, even losing seats. Yet they have been re-elected. Pelosi and House Democrats achieved their largest gains in decades. Now they are going to deny Pelosi the speakership? She was instrumental in raising money and shaping strategy.

Emphasis on health care

Part of that strategy involved the emphasis on health care, embracing the Affordable Care Act, reflecting the turn in public opinion toward support. Pelosi proved key in delivering the act eight years ago, holding firm when others advised backing away. She was crucial to passage of the stimulus package and improved regulation of Wall Street. Under her leadership, the House moved ambitiously to deal with climate change, approving market-oriented cap-and-trade legislation.

When House Democrats must serve as a check against the excesses of the Trump White House, not to mention propose clear and reasoned policy alternatives, Pelosi appears the best match for the job.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan challenged Pelosi two years ago, and lost the caucus vote 134-63. The Howland Democrat, who also represents portions of Akron, now stands at the front of the current effort. He wonders why the caucus wants to stick with a leader who polls so unfavorably, amounting to a persistent drag on the party at election time. Fair enough. Yet Republicans have demonized Pelosi, in part, because she is a formidable leader. Do Democrats concede the dark arts have worked?

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