Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi Credit: A. Shaker/VOA/Wikicommons

The House Democratic leadership is getting up in years. Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn are  both seventy-seven-years-old. Steny Hoyer is seventy-eight. And they’ve been in their leadership positions for quite a while now, which makes it understandable that some ambitious folks lower down are getting a little restless. I’m not sure the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California, was really trying to say a whole lot more than that when she went on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program today and said it was time for the leadership to “pass the torch” to a younger generation.

It’s at least implied in her comments, though, that a younger generation could do a better job. And I can see all kinds of ways that that might be true. But you still have to show me something concrete. Setting Hoyer and Clyburn aside, what is Pelosi doing wrong that someone younger would correct?

I hear that Pelosi is unpopular and a drag on Democratic candidates in a lot of districts around the country. That is probably true, but more so for how she is demonized and caricatured than for any errors she’s actually made. In her actual job, she’s been remarkably effective in nearly every facet of the job. She was a brilliant speaker, and she’s kept her caucus well-funded and very united, even in the opposition where she is severely limited in what she can accomplish. Maybe she could have done a better job protecting vulnerable incumbents, but her main job was to get them to vote for President Obama’s agenda. Maybe she could have hired better people to do recruitment, but that’s a delegation of responsibility. Overall, she’s been formidable and the equal of any congressional leader I can think of in recent American history.

And what makes people think that a replacement won’t quickly become the victim of Republican demonization and distortion?

If she seems out of touch with the young kids, please tell me how. I haven’t noticed it.

I definitely pine for fresh leadership and ideas from the party, but not in a vacuum. If there’s a leader as capable as Pelosi on deck, show me who this person is. I don’t see them.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at