Pelosi, Gingrich, and the Speaker of the House
From 1955 until 1995, the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. Sometimes they controlled by as few as 29 seats, another time by 155. But always controlled. Then along came Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Gingrich was elected to Georgia's 6th Congressional District in 1979. In 1988, Gingrich spearheaded charges against the current Speaker of the House, Democrat Jim Wright. Wright had allegedly used a book deal to get around campaign finance laws. Wright resigned in 1989, and Gingrich's path was set. His ability to effectively target, and get to resign, the second person in line to become President, didn't go unnoticed. That same year, he was voted in as House Minority Whip.
In the 1994 elections, Gingrich, along with Rep. Dick Armey, wrote and presented the “Contract with America.” It was a plan of ten specific legislative actions the House would pursue if the Republicans were able to take control. What makes this so much more substantial then the standard party platform is the Contract with America had very precise details.
Party platforms tend to be very aloof, ephemeral, and altruistic, filled with phrases like “strengthen our families,” “homelessness is unacceptable,” and “personal responsibility.” Platforms are meant to inspire and motivate. What they don’t do is provide a real path. If you ever feel like glancing at one, here are two from this time period: the Republican platform of 1992, and the Democrat platform of 1992.
Gingrich's plan worked. Five million more people voted for Republicans that year than for Democrats. The Contract took the House Republicans from being down by 82 seats, to up by 26 seats post-election. If an incumbent was beaten in the election, it was a Republican beating a Democrat. If a Democrat was retiring that year, the seat was lost to a Republican. It was a trouncing.
Gingrich was voted in as House Speaker.
Time Magazine named him 1995’s “Man of the Year.”
The Contract didn't end up exactly as the idea was presented to be. Parts failed to get passed, were vetoed, or were greatly altered when deals were made with President Clinton. And Newt wasn't without some ironic justice. In 1997, Gingrich was found to be in an ethics violation and was ordered to repay the House $300,000 in reimbursement of the investigation. The vote, by the House, to reprimand him was 395-28.
During the 1998 elections, the Republicans expected to gain 6-30 seats in the House. They lost 5. Republicans ran on the Lewinsky scandal, believing it would weaken President Clinton's popularity.
Newt replaced vision and direction, with animosity. He would resign both his Speakership and House seat in January.
No matter how it ended, Gingrich broke a 50-year stranglehold on Democrat control of the House.
President Obama's approval rating was around 45% during the 2010 election cycle, not low enough for voters to actively try and change his agenda. So RNC Chair Michael Steele changed the target of the cycle from Obama and his policies to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In September, Steele began his “Fire Pelosi” Bus Tour. It was a 6-week tour, from early September to Election Day, to motivate Republicans to get out and vote. It worked. What was looked at as the greatest Republican victory by Gingrich in 1994, paled to what Steele accomplished. Steele's bus tour gave the Republicans the House back with a 49 seat majority.
Gingrich and Steele had very concrete plans, were organized, and were able to rally the base as well as independent voters.
What is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi up to now?
President Trump's approval ratings among independents are in the mid to low 30%. Democrats give him an approval rating of 6%. During Obama's eight years in office, only twice has his Republican approval been as low as 6%. Trump has had those numbers from Democrats eight times in 2018 alone. Just once this year has Trump had an approval rating from Independents as high as 40%. All other times? It's in the 30s. These numbers show that Trump is wildly unpopular among Independents and Democrats. His numbers are lower than the Presidents Gingrich and Steele dealt with when trying to win back the House. Trump could be trounced in the November mid-terms.
The plan to topple Trump is coming from local levels and not just with voting, though it’s a crucial element. There is a record number of women seeking elected office. The base is motivated at an unprecedented level. The Democrat leadership isn't guiding this, and they're nearly absent. The “Blue Wave” is not a movement from Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer, or DNC Chair Tom Perez. It's purely grassroots.
The last few years, Pelosi has done little in the area of leadership, at least not in a nationally public way. She is vocal about some of Trump’s behaviors and policies but just as much are others... including elected Republicans.
Her congressional record doesn't seem to indicate any leadership “behind the scenes” either. In 2017, she introduced a single bill. That bill, designed to protect two people from deportation, has a 4% chance of succeeding.
This past August, Pelosi gave an interview where she indicated there would be an eventual relinquishment of power. Ironically, she was calling for the next generation who would replace her to build bridges and show her what was on the other side. She has been exceptionally unable to build any bridges, whether with House Republicans, or even parts of her own party in the Senate.
How would she handle Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old fireball from New York? Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic nomination for NY's 14th District. She was able to beat out incumbent Joe Crowley, running on a democratic-socialist stance. Whatever you think of that vision, it is not the status quo. And Ocasio-Cortex, from interviews, doesn't seem likely to accept going back to the status quo. Moreover, the national press will be looking at Ocasio-Cortez to see how she's doing. If she uses that pulpit to espouse the failings of House leadership, Democrats won’t keep the House for long. Pelosi hasn't been out in front of the Blue Wave. She hasn't called for any legislation. She hasn't called for help in mitigating Trump.
In fact, Pelosi didn't even roll out the Democrat slogan for the mid-terms. In July, House Democrats presented their 2018 slogan: For the People. Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos presented the slogan with their agenda, which includes healthcare costs, infrastructure, and the corruption that Republicans have brought to Washington. Why is Cheri Bustos putting the message out? Has Pelosi helped to spread that message? An Internet search of “Nancy Pelosi + For the People” or “Nancy Pelosi Midterm Slogan” doesn't provide much on anything, except for a barebones letter she sent out on October 7th, less than a month from the elections.
Never mind that the phrase is so banal, that the likelihood it would show up on an Internet search is a foregone conclusion. Where is the effort? Gingrich had a well-developed, well-outlined, and well-communicated agenda. Steele traveled 14,000 miles in a bus, hitting every state save Alaska and Hawaii. Those are the actions of leaders who want change.
There is quite possibly an enormous “Blue Wave” coming to the House. Odds are it will change hands, but it won't be from Pelosi's tutelage. House Democrats are going to need someone with new ideas, an appeal to independents, and a fire that is not likely to be found in the current Minority Leader. Pelosi has yet to implement -- let alone explain -- a vision for centrists, independents, progressives, and Democrats. In fact, there's even a path to gain support from fiscal conservatives due to the deficit ballooning to beyond payable.
For the Democrat caucus to allow her to become the House Speaker simply because she seems to deserve it for serving as Minority Leader, is a great example of how Democrats effectively fail in understanding what the country is asking for. Ocasio-Cortez proved that. Bring the same ol’ same ol’, and lose the House in 2020.