House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) must be gnashing his teeth that he lost his bid for the job he now has to Nancy Pelosi in October 2001. Had he been elected Whip that year, he would likely have succeeded Richard Gephardt as House Minority Leader in 2002 and would be the face of House Democrats today. With Hoyer at the helm, Democrats would be in a far better position to win a majority in the House this fall.
With a Gallup poll showing Republicans closing the gap (from an 11-point deficit to just 2 points) in the “generic Congressional ballot” and with the recent AP poll that Bruce cited earlier today, it’s far from clear that a Democratic takeover of Congress in the offing for this fall.
As Bruce noted, most Americans have yet to focus on the fall Elections. When they look at the Democrats, not only will they see their local candidates, but they will also see House Minority Leader Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Reid, both who have used their positions to obstruct the president’s agenda. They never seem to miss an opportunity to criticize the president.
In the fall, that opposition may not be enough to sway enough voters to their side. Most Americans prefer congressional leaders who do more than oppose the president, but actually put forward policies to help address the nation’s problems. While the Republicans have been far from perfect, they have at least put forward some legislation. Which the Democrats have obstructed.
Perhaps had the Democrats had leaders who were not so obsessed with the president, individuals willing to compromise with the GOP on a variety of initiatives, they might stand a better chance of winning control of Congress this fall. Such leadership would show that the Democrats are interested in governing. With Steny Hoyer at their helm, they would have a leader who, while critical of the president, has at least said publicly “He is the president of the United States, and he deserves some respect.”
Earlier this year when comedian Stephen Colbert made several tasteless jokes at the expense of the president at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Hoyer said the comedian “crossed the line.” That Democrat at least recognized there is a limit to Bush-hatred.
Steny Hoyer comes across as a far more level-headed individual that the woman who defeated him in 2001. With him at the helm, undecided voters might have more confidence that, if the Democrats took control of the House, they would offer something constructive instead of opposition and obstruction.
But, the Democratic base seems consumed with animosity for the Administration. When I did a google search to confirm Hoyer’s remarks above, I came up with numerous examples of left-wing bloggers furious at Hoyer for taking on Colbert, with a particularly angry one wondering if he’ll be the “the Joe Lieberman of 2008,” saying it’s in “bad taste” for Hoyer to continue “call himself a Democrat.”
Well, if Maryland’s “Joe Lieberman” were head of the House Democratic caucus, House Democrats would surely have a broader appeal this fall, yet their base might be upset that he was insufficiently anti-Bush. This points to the real problem the Democrats face. The angry left, as this month’s Connecticut returns show, increasingly powerful in the party, balks at supporting those Democrats, even very liberal ones like Hoyer, capable of making their party’s case to swing voters.
So obsessed are they will bashing Bush that they neglect the fact that to win a majority, Democrats need appeal not only to rank-and-file Democrats, but also to those not beholden to either party. Given congressional Republicans’ failings in the 109th Congress, we rank-and-file Republicans should be grateful for the prominence of the angry left in the Democratic caucus for, as one of Instapundit‘s readers observed “I grow more and more convinced the Republican majority will end itself by 2006 if the Left will just shut up for five minutes.”
Steny Hoyer must surely be gnashing his teeth. For if he were the House Democratic leader, he would likely be talking about what kind of legislation the Democrats would put forward should they win a majority this fall. While a Democratic partisan, he would not use his every public statement to bash the Republican President of the United States — who still has two years left in his term even if his party loses Congress this fall.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com