WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — Four years ago, NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Luke Russert caused a kerfuffle live on CSPAN which broke through the normal hushed tones on the channel.
“Discrimination!” roared an unidentified lawmaker in a sea of women who stood by Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the lectern.
Russert had asked Pelosi whether she should step aside for more youthful leadership.
Pelosi cracked that Russert didn’t ask that of Mitch McConnell. Undeterred, Russert chimed in and added two similarly-aged male Democratic leaders to the mix and asked his question again.
The San Francisco liberal brushed it aside, playfully but seriously yelling “Next!”
Russert’s warning may be coming true and Pelosi’s day of reckoning every political leader faces may be here.
That moment when staffers, other party leaders or simply a head count convinces party heads to step off the stage or to step aside.
Pelosi said publicly she is assured she will win election again as minority leader but she did move that leadership election until after Thanksgiving when time for reflection is plentiful.
The upstart Ryan, not GOP Paul but Democrat Tim, is from hardscrabble Youngstown, Ohio. He’s the one challenging Pelosi for the top leadership position.
Let’s face it: the odds are long. It’s been decades since a top House leader has been toppled in a contested caucus election.
The 43-year-old Ryan isn’t being subtle. He can’t be to gain traction.
“I believe we’re in denial of what’s happened,” Ryan said on the Fox Business Network. “I’m pulling the fire alarm because the house is burning down.”
On Sunday, former Nassau NY prosecutor Kathleen Rice, who just won re-election to the House, was the first member to step forward to back Ryan over Pelosi. How many more defectors may be telling.
Even in a perfect environment, regaining the majority in the House will be a tall order for Democrats, making the chance Pelosi will be House speaker again anytime soon slim.
The Democrats don’t have much to lose by turning to the Youngstown congressman because the Democratic Party is in shambles across the board.
The party has only three in 10 governors, neither chamber in Congress and Donald Trump is headed to the Oval Office.
Ryan’s proposal to the House Democratic caucus would be to assure positions for members with three or fewer terms. He proposes to reconfigure one committee and add another within the caucus to come up with new ideas and communicate them to voters.
Pelosi talked to Politico on Monday, laying out new proposals of her own.
But in this very anti-establishment time Pelosi is the ultimate insider. Being a San Francisco liberal doesn’t help either for a party that needs to reach out to the white working class voters who bailed on Hillary Clinton.
Washington insiders are betting on Pelosi which shouldn’t be much comfort to her.
If anything in 2016, we have learned conventional wisdom is neither conventional nor wise.
Russert was quite prescient in his question in 2012 of sidelining aging Democratic caucus leaders.
They’re four years older.
Now may be the time.