The Fight Over the Speaker of the House

W.J. Astore

If only Progressive Democrats had fought at all when they had the chance in 2021

There is no Left in America, not in Congress, at least. Whenever the so-called Left, or Progressives, or the Squad have an opportunity to drive policy changes, they cave to the corporate centrists within the Democratic Party. Which is why I laugh, however ruefully, when Republicans warn about the “radical left” and how powerful it allegedly is in America. What “radical left”?

Two years ago, before Nancy Pelosi was yet again elected Speaker of the House, so called Progressives (perhaps we should call them PINOs, or progressives in name only) had a rare opportunity to drive change by withholding their votes for Pelosi as Speaker, just as Republicans are doing now for Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. Like today’s Republicans, the PINOs could have extracted concessions from Pelosi, including a House vote on Medicare for all, for a $15 federal minimum wage, and similar policies the PINOs claim are at the top of their agenda. They chose to do nothing. They got no concessions. They drove no change. And thus the centrist/corporate Democrats continue to ride roughshod over them.

Remember this, Democrats? Force the vote was a rare opportunity to drive change, but the PINOs caved to Pelosi and got nothing in return

Which is why I salute the Republicans who are holding up McCarthy’s appointment as Speaker. They have convictions and are willing to fight for them. They are extracting concessions from McCarthy. Meanwhile, all the PINOs are doing is posing for selfies while poking fun at alleged Republican disorder.

No, you PINOs. This is what true democracy looks like. It’s messy. It involves in-fighting. You have to be willing to get bloodied, at least figuratively speaking. And if you’re unwilling to fight, to “bring the ruckus” to your own party, as AOC claimed she wanted to do, party rulers like Pelosi and current House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will diss, dominate, and demote you, as they did and do. 

Let’s take a quick look at the new House Minority Leader.  CNN praised Jeffries as “the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress.” That’s truly what matters, right? Diversity. More Black faces in high places. Or more women at the top. Or more LGBTQ+ and so on.

But what if “diversity” results in no meaningful policy changes? What if diversity, as my wife puts it, is mainly an optical illusion?

Jeffries, as Sabby Sabs of RBN (the Revolutionary Blackout Network) notes here, is just another corporate Democrat who’s especially skilled at fundraising for the Party. He’s against Medicare for all, he despises the Squad, he’s a fervid supporter of Israel (the “sixth borough of New York City,” he quipped), and his resume includes Georgetown University and (of course) a law degree.

Hakeem Jeffries, House Minority Leader

Can we expect progressive policies from Jeffries? Is he a radical leftist? Of course not! He’s a younger version of Pelosi, a corporate shill who’s sold as a change agent because he’s the first Black party leader in Congress, just as Pelosi was praised for the “change” she represented as the first Madam Speaker.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s generally a good thing when more women, more BIPOC, and other traditionally underrepresented groups attain positions of power. But if their ideas, policies, commitments, and practices are basically the same as those old white fat tomcats who preceded them, where’s the progress? Where’s the change?

In so many ways, today’s Democrats are yesterday’s Republicans. They are pro-war, pro-military, pro-business, and thoroughly corporate. Their alleged diversity is mostly optical. Meanwhile, the Republicans, whatever else they may be, are showing true diversity of views, as manifested by Kevin McCarthy’s messy fight for votes from his own party.

All those corporate Democrats and PINOs in Congress should take a very long look in a truth-telling mirror before crowing about how dysfunctional the Republicans allegedly are. If dysfunction means fighting for change that’s consistent with your principles and campaign promises, the Democrats could truly use some of that “dysfunction.” So too could America.