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Nancy Pelosi gets progressive backing in her race for House speaker

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House minority leader Nancy Pelosi
House minority leader
Nancy Pelosi.

Zach Gibson/Getty
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  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she is confident that
    she’s the best choice to be the next speaker of the House — and
    that a movement against her within her own party is motivated by
    sexism. 
  • But the opposition to her — largely coming from centrist
    Democrats — have taken offense to that charge and may put up Rep.
    Marcia Fudge, a former leader of the Congressional Black Caucus,
    to challenge Pelosi. 
  • With no strong alternative for speaker in the left wing of
    the party, progressive groups have begun to fall in line behind
    Pelosi — and they’re also charging her opponents with
    sexism.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she is confident that
she’s the best choice to be the next speaker of the House — and
that a movement against her within her own party is motivated by
sexism. 

Pelosi has long said that she remained in Democratic leadership
after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss because without her men would
have dominated the highest levels of American politics. 

“You cannot have the four leaders
of Congress [and] the president of the United States, these five
people, and not have the voice of women,” Pelosi
said
during a Sunday interview on
CBS.
 “Especially since women were the majority of the
voters, the workers in campaigns, and now part of this glorious
victory.”

Pelosi’s defenders have suggested
that her demonization by the right is deeply infused with
sexism. 

“Don’t like Pelosi, but can’t
quite articulate why? Felt the same way about Hillary Clinton?
Time for some deep self-reflection about gender bias and
leadership,” 

Jennifer
Victor, a political science professor at George Mason University,
wrote in a tweet
that went viral last week.

The minority leader and her
allies argue that the former speaker’s fundraising prowess,
significant legislative accomplishments, recent electoral
victories, and a lack of any strong progressive alternative
should be enough to vault her to the speakership. Pelosi
says she’s “100 percent” confident she’ll be re-elected speaker
in the new Congress, citing “overwhelming support” in her caucus.
Others in the party are pushing for a new voice.


Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, right, accompanied by Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, second from left, and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., left, speaks to members of the media following the House Democratic Caucus elections on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30, 2016.
Rep.
Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, right, accompanied by Rep. Marcia Fudge,
D-Ohio, second from left, and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., left, speaks
to members of the media following the House Democratic Caucus
elections on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30, 2016.

Andrew Harnik/AP

‘Plenty of really competent females’

Pelosi and her allies have characterized the intra-party
opposition to her speakership as a conservative, male-dominated
movement out of touch with the bulk of the Democratic party.
They’ve used the hashtag #FiveWhiteGuys — the same label Pelosi
gave to a bipartisan immigration working group earlier this year
— to refer to Reps. Seth Moulton and Tim Ryan, both centrist
Democrats, who have led the movement against her.

Moulton has made clear that he’s not running for speaker, but has
only floated one possible alternative so far: Ohio Rep. Marcia
Fudge, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus,
who said on Saturday that she’s been “overwhelmed” by the
encouragement she’s received from colleagues and will announce
whether she’ll run after Thanksgiving. 

Fudge framed her potential candidacy as a move away from
the Democratic party status quo and as a way to better represent
the diversity of the caucus.

“If we run on change, then we need change,” Fudge
told CNN
 on Saturday, adding that she and Pelosi
discussed those “within the caucus who are feeling left out and
left behind” during a Friday meeting. 

Fudge, Moulton, and Ryan have also held that the next speaker
should be a woman. 

“There’s plenty of really competent females that we can replace
her with,” Ryan told reporters last week, referring to Pelosi’s
replacement. 

Fudge was one of three women in a group of 17 incumbent and
incoming House members who signed a letter last week promising
not to vote for Pelosi on the House floor. As of Friday,
at least 20 lawmakers
have said they would oppose Pelosi,
including a total of six women. 


Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck
Schumer.

AP Photo/Andrew
Harnik


Women who oppose Pelosi’s bid for
speaker take issue with the suggestion that the movement against
her is sexist or anti-feminist.

Elissa Slotkin, an incoming
Michigan representative from a formerly red district, framed her
opposition to Pelosi as a push for “a new generation of
leadership” and added that “kitchen table issues are more
important than gender” to her constituents.

“I never want to be disrespectful
to anyone who has served, especially a woman who has broken glass
ceilings,” the 42-year-old former CIA
officer 


said

last week. “But we need to hear what
people are telling us on the ground,” she continued. “They want a
new generation that thinks differently and works harder and takes
the caucus in a new direction.”

New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, who’s also advocating for a “new
generation” of Democratic leaders, told reporters in recent days
that female members “should
not be made to feel that they are ‘anti-women’ if they don’t want
to vote for Nancy Pelosi.”

Rice escalated this argument on
Friday, tweeting,
“I find it fascinating that the very people who are
characterizing our call for new leadership as a sexist campaign
are also ignoring the women leading the
charge. 

Are
@RepMarciaFudge and I white men?”

Jennifer Victor, the George Mason
professor, said she’s not convinced the centrist Democratic
movement against Pelosi can fairly be characterized as
sexist.

“The evidence that it’s five
white guys is consistent with the sexism narrative, but it’s not
the only way to read that evidence,” she said in an interview
with INSIDER. 

Progressives groups and insurgents line up behind Pelosi 

With no viable alternative for speaker on the left, progressive
groups have begun to fall in line behind Pelosi — and they’re
also using gender as a defense of her and an attack on her
opponents.

“Anyone who thinks that Pelosi should be replaced by a moderate
white guy is fundamentally misreading the moment,” Joe Dinkin,
spokesman for the Working Families Party, told INSIDER. “Women
voters, and especially women of color, powered the progressive
wave, and we need more women in leadership roles — not
less.” 

Late last week, Indivisible — the progressive advocacy group
behind many insurgent Democratic candidates this year —
called
Pelosi “a strong and progressive leader” and argued
the party shouldn’t let a small group of white, moderate men
sabotage her.”

The Brady Campaign, a gun control advocacy organization,
endorsed Pelosi on Friday afternoon, and MoveOn.org, indicated
their support on Thursday night shortly after Pelosi promised to
put members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — which will
make up two-fifths of the Democratic caucus — in leadership
positions and prioritize progressive legislation. 


Alexandria Ocasio Cortez
Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday joined a protest on climate change
outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Incoming progressive members of the House — many of whom sharply
criticized Pelosi on the campaign trail and ran against the
Democratic establishment — have also moved away from outright
opposition to Pelosi. 

On her first day of congressional orientation in Washington, New
York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic
Socialist, joined hundreds of young protesters outside Pelosi’s
office to push for a “Green New Deal.” While the tactic was
an aggressive and unconventional one for a member of Congress,
Pelosi praised the activists as “inspiring” — and Ocasio-Cortez
commended her in return for agreeing to call for a select
committee to address climate change, one of the group’s
requests. 

Ocasio-Cortez, who ran her insurgent campaign as a
referendum on the Democratic establishment, said last week that
she’s open to supporting Pelosi. 

Other progressive insurgents have
similarly changed their tune. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan,
who

 said
in August

that she
would “probably not” vote for Pelosi because Democratic
leadership isn’t listening to the grassroots of the party, said

this week
of Pelosi 

“She’s willing to listen.”

For Tlaib, listening appears to
be enough: “that’s what I ask for right now at this
point.”

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