Why Nancy Pelosi may argue with progressives while Mitch McConnell fears conservatives
Last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke for many on the team when she expressed anger that House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, threw the full weight of their political capital behind Rep. Henry Cuellar, the House’s only anti-abortion, pro-gun Democrat. Mr Cuellar faced Jessica Cisneros, whom Ms Ocasio-Cortez endorsed, in a runoff last week after neither won a clear majority in the first primary.
“On the day of a mass shooting and weeks after Roe’s announcement, the Democratic Party leadership rallied behind a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a tight primary,” tweeted the New York Democratic Socialist MP. “Robocalls, fundraisers, all that stuff.”
Of course, Ms Ocasio-Cortez came to Congress after ousting House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley in 2018 and her sister-in-arms Ayanna Pressley did so after beating incumbent Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano while in 2020 , team members Cori Bush of Missouri and Jamaal Bowman of New York successfully elected longtime incumbent representatives William Lacy Clay and Eliot Engel, respectively.
Of course, this is not the first time Ms Pelosi has coerced progressives into submission. Last year, as it planned to submit the bipartisan infrastructure bill without a vote on Build Back Better to appease moderates (including Mr. Cuellar), the Congressional Progressive Caucus tried to run out of time by convening an extended meeting. While your dispatcher and other reporters waited outside the meeting, we noticed many phones buzzing and ringing (including one with a ringing of a sexy saxophone solo). Later, New York Times reporters and friends of the newsletter Carl Hulse and Jonathan Weisman reported that the caller blowing up progressives’ phones was none other than the speaker herself. In the end, Ms Pelosi’s strategy worked and all progressives except the Squad voted to put the infrastructure package in place.
The fact that Ms. Pelosi – whom many on the right call an out-of-touch, extreme liberal from San Francisco – often goes to war with her party’s left flank puts her in stark contrast to her counterpart, House Minority Leader Kevin . McCarthy, who went to war with Liz Cheney because she dared to call out her party for repeating Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen. This weekend, Mr McCarthy went so far as to send a video message to be played at a Trump rally for Ms Cheney’s main opponent, Harriet Hageman.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still has to look over his right shoulder to make sure he hasn’t angered the more conservative faction in his conference – despite the fact that he is responsible for cementing conservatism on the courts.
Why? Why does Ms. Pelosi go to war with the more left-wing voices in her caucus (and often win) while Mr. McCarthy (who is often mocked for his recklessness) and Mr. McConnell (considered the only politician in DC whose prowess outweighs that of Ms. Pelosi) both afraid of their right flank?
The reason is that unlike the hardcore faction of the GOP, progressives aren’t necessarily at the heart of the Democratic base.
A Early Year Gallup Poll showed that 51% of Democrats identify as liberals, while 37% identify as moderates and 12% as conservatives, the fifth straight year of similar statistics. But among black voters, the Democratic Party’s most dedicated voting bloc, the numbers shift noticeably to the right: Only 29% call themselves liberals, while 43% identify as moderates and 25% as conservatives. according to a separate Pew survey. Meanwhile, 38% of Hispanic voters identify as moderate, compared to 23% who call themselves conservatives and only 37% who call themselves liberals.
That means Ms. Pelosi, Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are constantly having to strike a balance. They also need to recognize where conservative Hispanics are concentrated, and Mr. Cuellar’s district is full of counties that have shifted radically to the right — such as Jim Hogg, Webb, Hidalgo or Starr County — or swung outright to the GOP. like Zapata County in 2020.
Even though Pelosi’s progressive critics may hate her for it, her number one job is to hold the Democratic majority. And she made the clear political decision that a Democrat in the mold of the team cannot win in a county that has moved to the right (especially since even its most moderate members have been accused of supporting the funding of the police during the last elections).
On the other side, meanwhile, the same 2022 Pew survey found that 74% of Republicans identify as conservatives, compared to just 22% who identify as moderates and 4% who identify as liberals. Former Vice President Mike Pence’s aphorism that “I’m a Christian, conservative and Republican in that order” fits perfectly with the self-image shared by many grassroots Republican voters.
Accordingly, Mr. McConnell (who supported the right to abortion and had the support of the unions early in his career) and Mr McCarthy has to deal with the fact that their base is much more to the right than them.
For Mr. McConnell, that means embracing the conservative agenda as much as possible and confirming as many justices that will overrule liberal policies while keeping the most extreme candidates as far away from the Senate primaries as possible, while for Mr. McCarthy, that means means keeping as good a relationship with the most fringe members of his conference as possible – even if it means cutting some slack off Marjorie Taylor Greene.