For years, Democratic activists and analysts have complained about the negative impact of Nancy Pelosi on their efforts to take back the House of Representatives and forge a new party coalition. Pelosi, 78, has consistently remained one of the two least popular Democrats in Washington. The other was Hillary Clinton. So why would the Democratic Party rig a primary for Clinton and keep Pelosi when fighting to curtail Trump? The answer is found in what these leaders offer establishment figures not what they offer the party, the public, or the country. They deliver in jobs and money for powerful allies who see no personal advantage in supporting other candidates. The dominance of self-interest is evident in yet another poll showing that forty-five percent of registered voters say they are less likely to support a candidate who backs the California Democrat for House speaker should her party win a House majority in November. It is a fascinating (and familiar) pattern as the party establishment maintains a leader who is clearly a drain on efforts to retake Congress. Those who support Trump want Pelosi to remain in her position and are running commercials across the country featuring the prospect of her returning as Speaker. Yet, faced with yet another anti-establishment electorate, Democrats are again offering the same establishment leaders.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday shows that only 21 percent of registered voters say that Pelosi makes them more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate.
The disconnect is crushing for a party that insists that nothing short of the future of our Republic rests in the balance of these elections. Yet, personal alliances is preventing the party from removing the least favorite Democratic leader to ensure that it can retake the House. President Donald Trump could well prove unpopular enough to cancel out the unpopularity of Pelosi, but why take that chance? It was the same gamble that the party elite took with Clinton. We have previously noted that polls have shown Trump would still beat Clinton in a head-to-head election (and here). While Trump is also facing declining polls, he is at the same level or even higher than Clinton. Clinton posted the lowest polling numbers yet with only 36% popularity and an unfavorable rating of 61%. Polls are showing Trump at 38 percent. While a new poll shows that half of people feel Trump should resign, it is clear that they want Clinton even less — the very same position held by many in the campaign. Before the establishment all but anointed Clinton as their candidate in the primary, polls clearly showed that the voters did not want an establishment figure so the DNC worked to guarantee the nomination to the ultimate establishment figure. However, it clearly goes deeper than that. Even against one of the most unpopular figures in history (Trump was even worse at 63 percent unfavorable), Clinton could not even maintain a majority of women with favorability ratings.
Pelosi and the establishment would prefer to take the risk of not flipping the House than make a change in leadership. Even if Pelosi costs a couple of percentile difference, it could well make the difference for retaking the House. If the House stays in Republican hands, Trump could well be insulate from impeachment or investigation for the remainder of his term. With Trump’s popularity on the rise and Pelosi’s popularity still on the decline, the risk being taken by Democratic leadership is staggering.
The disconnect does not stop there. Women’s groups and many liberals continue to push Bill and Hillary Clinton to the forefront of speeches and fundraisers despite polls showing that they polarizing and unpopular. In this poll, almost 40 percent of voters said that they would be very uncomfortable in voting for anyone supported by Hillary Clinton. Only 9 percent view Clinton’s endorsement in a positive way but she continues to be pulled before high-profile women’s and Democratic groups.
Thirty-seven percent answered that they are very uncomfortable with backing a candidate endorsed by the former first lady and secretary of State, versus 9 percent who say they are enthusiastic. The Clinton family is expected to take only a limited role in campaigning for Democrats this year.
The situation is not much better for Trump who continues to be highly polarizing and unpopular. Only 12 percent looked favorability on anyone endorsed by Trump while 38 percent answered that they would be very uncomfortable.
So we have a repeat of the situation in 2016 with the least popular figures leading the respective election efforts. For the Democrats however the choice is more stark. Trump is President and will not resign. Pelosi has been unpopular for over a decade and led her party into a steady string of defeats, including losing the House of Representatives. Most expected Pelosi to resign after that loss by tradition, but again her interests and those of her allies prevailed. There is simply nothing in it for establishment leaders in opposing Pelosi and bringing to power someone who is likely to change the leadership across the board.
Notably, many of the upsets this election came from young Democrats who declared that they would oppose Pelosi as majority leader or Speaker. This includes the two biggest upset for Conor Lamb andAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez. However, there is a cynical calculate at play. If Pelosi remains and becomes speaker, she will shower her allies with key positions and support. If she loses, no one will blame the establishment figures who did nothing to remove the drain on Democratic voting. The answer is simple in Washington where God, and the party, help those who help themselves.