Sunday, November 7, 2010

Leadership Races

It looks like Nancy Pelosi will continue as leader of the Democratic caucus. And that is good.

The interesting question concerns the Minority Whip election, where it appears to be James Clyburn versus Steny Hoyer. Pelosi and Hoyer have an odd relationship as rivals who fight against each other during each major leadership race, but then work together perfectly well when the fighting is done. The most well-known recent case is when Pelosi supported Murtha's run against Hoyer for the majority leadership back in 2006. My take on that is just that Murtha had done a favor for Pelosi (leading the charge against the Iraq War) so Pelosi felt obligated to pay him back. But you wouldn't know it from what happened over the next few years, they worked together more or less seamlessly on major issues. Now Clyburn appears to be running with tacit Pelosi support against Hoyer.

Despite being the pro-business candidate, Hoyer has some progressive support. Leadership elections involve a whole lot of favor-trading and the question of who helped out more with funding your campaign is an important one. Also, I've heard that Hoyer's network will sometimes face off against Pelosi's network on the question of which particular progressive member or conservative member gets a particular leadership post that was going to that ideological bloc anyway. So it's no surprise that you have people with all different alignments in each network, even though the question of who actually leads the caucus is ideologically very significant.

I don't have a very clear view of how this sort of thing turns out. I assume that Pelosi is supporting the people she supports as part of some kind of Byzantine internal dealmaking that's mostly about returning past favors. I'd also guess that Hoyer retains his leadership position. But with lots of the more pro-Hoyer Blue Dogs gone from the House (after biting themselves in the foot by pushing for a small stimulus) it's conceivable that Clyburn will win. In any case, it'll make interesting TV.
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