JONATHAN CHAIT NOVEMBER 10, 2010
Matt Bai devotes his New York Times column to rebutting the fairly silly claim that Democrats are better off without their most conservative members, which is fine. But he also endorses the odd view that retaining Nancy Pelosi is at odds with winning back the majority:
If there was any sliver of hope for moderate Democrats on a catastrophic midterm election night, it was their assumption that now, at least, the party’s leaders would have to focus on recapturing the political center. If nothing else, they reasoned, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be forced to step aside as party leader, yielding control to Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland congressman who had been the Blue Dogs’ ally in party leadership.
A week later, that hope appears to have been woefully misguided. Ms. Pelosi defied expectation by announcing that she wanted to stay on, forcing Mr. Hoyer into a potential fight to hold onto the No. 2 spot in the party leadership.
Of course, Pelosi was the Minority Leader when Democrats took back the House to begin with, so at the very least, her position in that job is not incompatible with winning the majority.
More strangely still, in Bai's (correct) defense of having moderates in the party, he picks some very odd historical examples:
Even during the great heyday of Democratic government in the 20th century, when the party enacted Social Security and Medicare and civil rights legislation, its dominance was possible only because Democrats had shaped a majority coalition made up of Northern liberals and Southern conservatives.
Civil rights? Southern conservatives voted against civil rights legislation en masse. Civil rights laws passed because of a large, cross-partisan majority among non-Southerners. Not only was controlling the majority not essential to marshaling that coalition, it was detrimental. The Southern Democrats who controlled committees bottled up civil rights legislation for years on end. Republican control of Congress would have enabled civil rights legislation to succeed earlier.