Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Uncivil Civil War: Democrats call for Pelosi’s ouster grow louder

Politico, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, New York Times…  They’re all breathlessly yakking about a “civil war” between “Tea Party” Republicans and “establishment” Republicans over second-and third-tier leadership positions in the House and the ear mark ban.

That ain’t no “Civil War.”  This is, and the tone is becoming downright ugly. Uncivil, even.

image WASHINGTON (AP) — In a fresh sign of turmoil among defeated Democrats, a growing number of the rank and file say they won’t support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a politically symbolic roll call when the new Congress meets in January.

“The reality is that she is politically toxic,” said Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, one of several Democrats who are trying to pressure Pelosi to step aside as her party’s leader in the wake of historic election losses to Republicans last week.

There’s “starting to be a sense that this may not be as much of a done deal as people might have thought,” Rep. Jason Altmire said of Pelosi’s quest to remain the top Democrat.

“If enough people come out and voice a little discomfort with the idea of her continuing on, maybe she would reconsider,” said the Pennsylvanian, one of a handful of Democrats who said he won’t cast a ceremonial vote for her.

The private, secret ballot voting for party leadership is typically done behind closed doors. Neither party wants the press or the public to be privy to any intra-party squabbling. In this case, the squabbling behind the closed Democrat doors is likely to be much more like verbal warfare.  The Democrat Caucus is smaller, and the liberal element now makes up a much larger percentage, now that so many conservatives and moderates have been ousted.  So it’s likely that if she decides to stick it out, Pelosi will become the Minority Leader.

But Altmire and a handful of others are threatening to vote against her in the very public, usually symbolic roll call vote when the new Congress convenes in January.  Party defections in those events are exceedingly rare, and they would be seen as betrayal.

IF those vocal Democrats make good on their promises not to support Pelosi in the roll call vote, and if Pelosi predictably retaliates by stripping them of any sweet committee assignments they have left, then the real likelihood of party switching comes into play.

1994, anyone?