Freshmen Women of Color Are Not the New Tea Party

I’m not in the habit of incessantly complaining about the news coverage of the New York Times, but I have to say something about the latest article from Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Astead W. Herndon because it’s egregiously bad and annoying. The premise is obvious from the start:

When Rashida Tlaib, a newly elected Democrat from Michigan and favorite of the liberal left, met privately last week with Representative Nancy Pelosi, who was seeking her vote for speaker, she pointedly demanded an end to “the old culture of waiting your turn.”

Taking aim at the seniority system that Ms. Pelosi used to climb the ranks of the House, Ms. Tlaib pressed the would-be speaker from California to give progressive newcomers coveted seats on powerful committees like Appropriations and Ways and Means — spots usually reserved for veterans. Ms. Tlaib, who once said she would “probably not” vote for Ms. Pelosi, appears headed to do so when Democrats elect their leaders on Wednesday, one member of a crew of boisterous young liberals who have become shock troops in Ms. Pelosi’s leadership battle.

But by empowering newcomers like Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ms. Tlaib, Ms. Pelosi risks creating a headache for herself down the road: a Democratic version of the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right group that consistently defies Republican leadership, making life difficult for Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

To begin with, every one of the members mentioned here is a woman of color. For another, they’re not the people who were giving Nancy Pelosi a headache as she sought to win her bid for a second speakership. And the examples that Stolberg and Herndon later provide are not indications that these members will give Pelosi heartburn in the future, or that they behave in a way even faintly similar to the way the Tea Party or Freedom Caucus operates on the other side of the aisle.

Ms. Tlaib requested a position on the Appropriations Committee, which is a request not normally granted to freshman lawmakers. She received no commitment on that. Ms. Pressley asked for and was granted a commitment to have an early vote on background checks for all gun purchases. Ms. Hayes won a vague promise to commit to bringing younger members onto the leadership team. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez pressed for and was granted a revival of the global warming committee, which is something Pelosi created voluntarily the first time she became speaker. Ms. Underwood apparently bargained for nothing.

So far, none of these women have been empowered in any meaningful way. None of their demands are unreasonable or likely to create political liabilities for more moderate members. There’s simply no indication that they will vote as a bloc to defy the wishes of the leadership, hold up spending bills, or make Pelosi go looking for votes from the Republicans.

Some of the asks (some of them), like Medicare-for-All and abolishing ICE, would divide the Democratic caucus if they came up for a vote. But there are ideological and policy differences within every party in every Congress, and that doesn’t mean that every Congress has to deal with a Tea Party revolt.

The New York Times article is not informative at all. It is basically an exercise in dishonestly concern-trolling the Democrats, and it’s a particularly glaring example of the Gray Lady at its worst.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.