The 2018 Midterm Election is over, and Democrats have won control of the House. The first thing I would stress to Democrats is that it is long past time for new leadership. Nancy Pelosi, Stenny Hoyer, and James Clyburne should be commended for careers of public service and based on their leadership and experience, they should make the necessary, albeit personally difficult decision to step aside as the party’s House leadership. They can help and support new leaders who should be better in touch with the United States of 2018 and reflect a national strategy and image of the Democratic Party. House Democrats, as well as the nation, want change. They want to see leaders for contemporary America.
However, it appears Pelosi is determined to regain the Speakership with Hoyer and Clyburne maintaining their leadership roles. As a compromise, she is considering an abbreviated tenure as Speaker to get things started and then passing the gavel before the next election. To get elected, many Democratic candidates “vowed” not to support Pelosi for Speaker. Therefore, this deal might be necessary for her to garner enough support to win the Speakership, thus clever politics, but is ambiguous concerning the new power structure of the House moving forward. Of course, there is no guarantee she steps down or who replaces her as Speaker.
Democrats rolled to power in 2006, making Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House, largely in response to rampant, wasteful spending by Republicans. The American people spoke clearly and entrusted the financial well being of the nation to the Democrats. Republicans then routed the Democrats a mere 4 years later, once again in large part due to wasteful spending and overreaching. This important victory will be a giant waste if Democrats do not get it right this time. The U.S. is currently in a center-right mode. The Democrats could move us back to center-left through good governance. However, if Democrats attempt to go far left, they will again lose power and significantly weaken their chances in the 2020 Election, another critical election for our future.
Committee Chairs are critical leaders central to success. Chairs must be responsible with their rhetoric, the tone they set, their committee agendas, and at least a bona fide attempt at bipartisan cooperation. Although most current Ranking Members could transition to effective Committee Chairs, the leadership needs to ensure they have the best qualified leaders in place. Unlike Speaker Ryan, who allowed Devin Nunes to engage in blatantly improper, if not illegal, activities as Intelligence Committee Chair, Speaker Pelosi would be wise to enforce proper standards. She promised her leadership would be transparent to the American people, so let’s hope she fulfills that promise. Speaker Ryan clearly did not.
The new leadership needs to carefully consider their transition to power. The most foolish and counter-productive thing to do would be to rush in focusing on impeachment and investigations. By almost a two to one margin, the American electorate does not support impeachment and are similarly leery of the threat of looming endless investigations. Impeachment is premature until and unless the Special Counsel or Congressional investigations produce actionable evidence. Democrats should not even be discussing impeachment before that occurs. If the investigation produces sufficient cause, hopefully the American people will then support appropriate action.
Congress performs the important Constitutional duty of oversight. Holding hearings and investigations are a key and necessary component. There are important issues to investigate that fall within Congress’ mandate. The Trump Administration must accept this inevitable requirement and be prepared to cooperate. It is all about accountability to the taxpayers. The House Intelligence Committee should complete the open investigation that Republican Representatives Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, and others obstructed and prevented. It is crucial for the new Democratic leadership to keep these processes focused, respectable, professional, efficient, and free from emotion and vitriol. In other words, demonstrate the integrity and dedication to duty the Republicans utterly failed to display while ultimately resolving these important national security matters.
To govern successfully, especially with divided government, Democrats should dedicate this first term focused on policy, not investigations. President Trump stated he expected the Democrats to propose “fantastic ideas” on environmental protection (he said he would accept nothing less than the “cleanest air” and “cleanest water” there is), infrastructure, and prescription drug prices and believed he could support those priorities. Democrats need to spend considerable effort on these issues, push good faith solutions, and hold the President to his promise. If it works, the country wins. If not, the President will need to be accountable. Immigration was a key issue for the majority of voters. Democrats need to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill, including DACA. Speaker Ryan refused to allow a bill with strong bipartisan support to come to a vote. Speaker Pelosi should move that bill forward.
By far the biggest challenge Democrats will face is the national debt. As with 2006, they are taking power in the face of a Republican controlled government that ran up a huge debt. The Trump/McConnell/Ryan budget added 1.4 trillion dollars to the debt in Trump’s first year as President. In the past, leaders have selfishly determined simply to pass the problem to the next generation. According to renowned economists, we are but several years away from the likely onset of catastrophic consequences of this debt that will cripple the country with devastating effects. The interest payments alone will become the largest annual budget expenditure, surpassing the military budget. Democrats must prove to the American people that they can be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. This will not be easy. Voters love tax cuts, even bad ones, and tax increases do not bode well for future election cycles. Spending cuts will be necessary to address the deficit, but only go so far when the nation has important obligations. Infrastructure is long overdue but will be very expensive. We must properly fund the military and national security programs. This extremely complex situation will require bipartisanship, creativity, and perseverance. It is also the key to success in power.
The country is desperate for good leadership. House Democrats need to respond to this call for action. The future of the Democratic Party and the nation depend on doing this right.