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July 12, 2006
Pelosi Losing Grip On Caucus?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has dreams of becoming the first woman to wield the Speaker's gavel if the Democrats can take control of the House in the mid-term elections. However, according to Roll Call, the Democratic caucus has increasingly lost interest in her, with participation in caucus meetings dropping below 25%:

With attendance typically struggling to crack the 50-Member mark, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is cracking the whip, demanding that her fellow Democrats attend three “crucial” Caucus meetings between now and the August recess — an order supplemented by a fellow leader’s hint that failure to cooperate could be detrimental to Members’ futures.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent early Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi told Members that attendance will be taken at the weekly hour-long sessions this morning and each of the next two Wednesdays, with Democrats using the sessions to discuss their “New Direction” agenda. “These crucial meetings will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end promptly at 10:00 a.m.,” Pelosi wrote. “The meetings are mandatory and I have asked [Caucus Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.)] to take attendance.”

Take attendance? What is this, high school? Perhaps Pelosi fails to understand that people follow leaders only to the extent that the leaders motivate them to do so. Asking for a roll call at the meetings might convince a few more stragglers to join, but a failure to get three-quarters of a caucus to attend meetings points towards a problem with leadership, not the rank and file.

Roll Call has some specific criticisms from their sources, who complain that the meetings serve little purpose. Policy decisions rarely get made by the caucus as a whole, and as a result, the meetings turn out to be little more than an opportunity for pointless speech-making. The Democrats apparently don't want a democratic approach to policy, preferring that the "leadership" make those decisions themselves and serving the rest of the caucus with the dictates from above.

The disaffection appears serious enough that Pelosi and her lieutenants have threatened to discard seniority as the deciding factor in committee assignments, and chair selections if they take control in November. Rahm Emmanuel has already started tracking campaign finance assistance and election support by member, and Clyburn's attendance records could also play a part in these decisions. It's hard to see how that will be terribly motivational, especially considering Pelosi's decision to disqualify Jane Harman from the House Intelligence Committee chair in place of Alcee Hastings; it seems that party purity has already replaced seniority.

In fact, it's hard to take any of this seriously. Rather than act like a neurotic middle-school Vice Principal, Pelosi could encourage caucus attendance by actually allowing the caucus to have some say in policy decisions. Instead, she and Clyburn want to force members to show up for their lecture series. Keep this top-down approach to leadership in mind when voting in the mid-term elections; it's exactly the same kind of treatment that the Democrats want in governing the US.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 12, 2006 10:15 AM

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» The excitement is gone from Betsy's Page
Oooh, takin' notes and takin' names. You go, Nancy. Crack that whip! Make sure your peeps know what their talking points are, the ungrateful wretches. Here you are doing them the favor of telling them what to think and they don't even want to find out ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 12, 2006 6:14 PM

» Donkey Droppings from Hard Starboard
Taking attendance, eh? Gives a whole new meaning to the term "roll call," doesn't it? Rather than get all bent out of shape at so few Donks showing up at her "mandatory" meetings, perhaps Pelosi should be pondering the reason(s) for their chronic ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 13, 2006 10:20 AM


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