by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Thursday that she would not seek reelection to a leadership position, ending her two-decade stint atop House Democrats’ caucus and opening the door to the biggest leadership shake-up in recent memory.
The change was long coming. Pelosi and her deputies, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), have led as a triumvirate for 15 years, keeping the Democratic conference unified even with small majorities. Their approach worked well enough that other leading Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden asked Pelosi to consider staying on over the last several weeks, but the winds had changed both politically and personally to the point that she ultimately decided to relinquish the reins.
First, there were the two obvious considerations of age and a promise. Pelosi, 82, and her cohort are octogenarians dealing with younger progressives several generations their junior agitating for new blood to take the helm.
During the midterm elections, centrist Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) publicly called for change. Spanberger said “the Democratic Party needs new leaders in the halls of Capitol Hill” after leadership tabled a bill to ban stock trading. Slotkin said they needed “new blood, period, across the Democratic Party, in the House, the Senate, and the White House,” including more representation for the middle of the country.
Pelosi responded last month, “Yes, we need generational change. Of course we do. But in some cases, there’s no substitute for experience.” That experience includes her fundraising prowess, as the California Democrat has raised $1.25 billion over the 20 years she’s been in leadership.
The opposition echoed grumblings from 2018, when she cut a deal with members of her party who opposed her speakership bid after Democrats took back the House. The informal agreement limited her to two more terms as the top Democrat.