Shuler Versus Pelosi

Democrat Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina has been making noises about challenging Nancy Pelosi for the position of House Minority leader.  Over the weekend, he told CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was “unacceptable” for Pelosi to remain as leader of the House Democrats, and said he would challenge her if she doesn’t step aside.

Pelosi does not seem likely to step aside, despite her massive unpopularity with the American public.  As a matter of strategy, if she gives up the Minority Leader seat, it would be seen as a concession of defeat for the radical agenda she pushed through the 111th Congress.  Pelosi still thinks Americans will wake up any day now, and fall in love with this agenda. 

Shuler, who can apparently read exit polls, disagrees, calling the Democrat loss in the midterm elections “devastating.”  He says he wants to move the Democrat Party in a more moderate direction, and sees no way to chart such a course with Pelosi at the helm.

In order to assume Pelosi’s position, Shuler must defeat the seven evil ex-Minority Leaders in single combat.  No, wait, that was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  Actually, Shuler only has to defeat Pelosi, but he says wants to give her a little more time to step aside voluntarily before launching his challenge.  Many observers thought he would formally launch his challenge on “State of the Union” this weekend, but he wasn’t ready to commit just yet. 

The greatly diminished moderate wing of the Democrat Party has been muttering support for a leadership challenge, but Pelosi has the heavy hitters in her corner.  She just arranged a deal between Steny Hoyer of Maryland and James Clyburn of South Carolina, to make Hoyer the second-in-command for House Democrats, while creating a new leadership position for Clyburn.  In a Friday interview with National Public Radio, Pelosi was defiant, stating that she has been under attack from “special interests in Washington” for her “effective” leadership.  “My motivation for running is to be in the strongest possible position to create jobs, to continue the work we did in the previous administration, to preserve Social Security, to protect what we did for health care reform and Wall Street reform,” she explained to NPR.  That doesn’t sound like someone getting ready to gracefully move aside, so fresh leadership can take the Party in a new direction.

Shuler has openly stated he doesn’t think he can win a leadership struggle.  His potential base of support was, ironically, reduced by the wrath of an electorate that watched the ObamaCare debacle, and concluded there is no such thing as a “moderate” Democrat.  Such fantastic creatures tend to vanish, once no one believes in them anymore. 

In a normal election cycle, Shuler would be a formidable candidate: he’s a charismatic former football star, he ran a successful real-estate business, he managed an 8-point win in the increasingly red state of North Carolina, and he’s not all that moderate – he voted “no” on the gigantic Obama stimulus, but then “yes” on even more “stimulus” spending in July of 2009.  His weakness against the disastrous Nancy Pelosi highlights the possibly mortal wound the Democrat Party inflicted on itself by lurching violently to the Left over the past few years: the very people who might be able to pull it back toward the center have become an endangered species.  Democrats made a decision to go for broke under Barack Obama, and manage acceptable losses while they grabbed for the brass rings that could insure permanent liberal victory over a dependent America in the future.  If they keep Pelosi as their House leader, they’ll be doubling down on a bet they can only lose if voters inflict totally unacceptable losses on them in 2012.