House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California was reelected for her eighth term to lead the Democratic caucus on Wednesday (30 November) after facing opposition from Ohio Representative Tim Ryan. Pelosi's margin of victory revealed discontent and disagreement among Democrats.
Ryan launched his bid two weeks ago following the party's disappointing performance during the election. The Washington Post noted that the party has been concerned that it has gotten out of touch with working-class voters in a number of states, particularly swings states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Pelosi was able to surpass her self-declared margin of victory, a two-thirds majority, beating Ryan 134-63. According to the Post, many Democrats were surprised that nearly a third of the caucus was willing to throw their support behind Ryan, who has no major policy or political experience despite serving seven terms in the House.
Despite losing, Ryan and his supporters were comforted after forcing Pelosi to propose elevating junior lawmakers and creating a more inclusive table. "We're going to win as Democrats if we have an economic message that resonates in every part of the country," Ryan told reporters. "We are disappointed, because I like to win. ...But the party is better off."
Fellow Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge told reporters, "It's a huge deal. She got less than 70% of her caucus. Our efforts were strong enough to make them start to try to figure out how do we put more people in leadership, how do we change this caucus? That's the win."
Pelosi publicly congratulated Ryan and said his "very aggressive campaign" had prompted her to work harder than before. "I quite frankly feel more liberated that I ever have," she said.
According to Politico, a significant number of House Democrats are wary of Pelosi's continued leadership. Pelosi's proposal to make changes to the assistant minor leader post held by South Carolina's Jim Clyburn upset many of the Congressional Black Caucus. She later backtracked on the suggestion.
Other issues exist with younger members of the caucus. "[Pelosi] certainly has to recognise the reality—which she does, I'm sure—that a very large fraction of the caucus was elected in the last few years," New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler said. "There's frustration with two things: One, we have not done as well. And (second), there's frustration that a number of the more senior people keep staying in their position, and there's sort of a bottleneck with younger members."
The minority leader has reiterated that she has a game plan to fight President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Party. She plans to make deals when it is possible but is determined to fight when it is politically beneficial.
"My heart is broken that we did not win the White House this time," Pelosi said. "Where we can engage we will. Where we need to oppose, we will."