The decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to step down from leadership has triggered a race to replace her – and it’s already threatening to turn ugly, with enough accusations of lies and betrayal to fill an entire season of a TV soap opera.
Party elders and Democratic traditionalists bankrolled by Wall Street have anointed Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) as the next leader, which will be the House minority leader position given the GOP takeover in January.
While that move would make Jeffries the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress, the far-left “progressive” wing isn’t ready to celebrate this win for diversity.
Just the opposite.
Jeffries is disliked by the party’s socialist wing, led by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her fellow members of “The Squad” in the House as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate.
Ocasio-Cortez is reportedly so unhappy with Jeffries that she considered backing a primary challenger in 2018.
“It’s personal for Ocasio,” an unnamed source told Politico at the time. “And she’s going to go all out to take him out.”
While she ultimately decided against it, there’s no love lost between the two.
Last summer, Jeffries put the party’s leftists on notice when he told The Atlantic: “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” And in 2016, he dismissed Sanders as a “gun-loving socialist with zero foreign policy experience.”
Even if Jeffries arranges a truce with the progressives, his grip on the caucus is likely to be tenuous, especially given the criticism also coming from outside of the D.C. bubble.
Kina Collins, a Justice Democrats member who has repeatedly challenged Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), called Jeffries “backward” and “hypocritical,” and accused him of bullying far-left candidates and lawmakers alike in an interview with the Washington Post.
The situation is just as hostile in his home state.
Jabari Brisport, a Democratic state senator in New York, accused Jeffries of creating a PAC to defend party incumbents, only to refuse to help a progressive incumbent. In addition, Brisport says Jeffries used PAC cash to “tip the scales” against a progressive candidate in an open race.
“Democrats who lie about their intentions in order to attack the left wing of the party should not be confirmed to lead it,” he wrote on Twitter last week.
Jeffries is also coming under fire from progressive media. The far-left website Truthout roasted Pelosi as a “roadblock” to the progressive agenda, but warned that Jeffries could be “far more hostile” to their priorities.
“[I]f Pelosi was a force that stopped progressives in their tracks, Jeffries could be a bludgeon actively forcing the progressive movement back, depending on how he decides to exercise his power,” the website noted.
Progressive personality Cenk Uygur was just as blunt, calling Jeffries “the most corporate of all the Democrats.”
“I don’t know why any progressive would vote for Hakeem Jeffries for leader,” he wrote on Twitter. “He is diametrically opposed to us on most of our policy priorities and represents the corporate wing of the party.”
Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t said anything publicly about Jeffries’ leadership bid. But when asked about him earlier this month by The Intercept, she warned there should be a “political cost” to members backed by big money.
And while she didn’t mention him by name in her reply, she seemed to call him out for his strategy to push mainstream candidates over the radicals preferred by the far-left base.
“[W]hen you outwardly antagonize, and outwardly seek to belittle and distance oneself from progressive values, you demoralize your base,” she said. “I think there’s gonna be a lot more of that analysis as more data rolls in.”
Jeffries is getting support from at least one unexpected source – and it’s not on the left.
It’s on the right.
“Hakeem Jeffries is the perfect choice to succeed Nancy Pelosi,” the Republican National Committee tweeted sarcastically. “He’s just as unhinged, crazy, and far left as she is.”
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert.