When asked, progressive Democrats in Congress have complained that there is no democratic process for electing the party’s new leaders. No one admits they think that Hakeem Jeffries and Pete Aguilar are terrible or corrupt— which they are— but some have cautiously expressed a certain degree of discomfort about what kind of characters these two men essentially are. I did find one or two members who defended Hakeem, but not one— not even one member— who would defend Aguilar. Even the ones unaware of his coke addiction could find a single positive thing to say about him. (Ditto for the two criminal schlemiels running for DCCC chair, Tony Cardenas and Ami Bera.)
Jeffries, a standard variety DC careerist and career-long Wall Street/AIPAC suck-up is running not on vision of even any pressing issues, but on “first Black speaker.” One prominent member of Congress told me it’s “virtually impossible” to run against that, not inside today’s Democratic caucus. This morning he was endorsed by Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn… and he has no opponent.
Neither his egregious connections to Sam Bankman-Fried, Wall Street, New York's out of control yeshiva tax rip-off movement, the charter school industry and AIPAC seem to be encouraging anyone to challenge him— nor is his ugly and disrespectful war against AOC going to get anyone to stand up against him. Referring to her last year, he told Atlantic reporter Edward-Issac Dovere that “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” That’s right, centrists don’t fight for the working class; they never have and never will.
“There’s been no discussion,” one frustrated senior Democratic congressman told me, “for where the party is going, just a fait accompli about who’s taking over for the next couple of generations... It’s very disheartening.” He pointed me to a Jeet Heer essay for The Nation today, The Democrats Have a Crypto Problem— The high costs of taking money from Sam Bankman-Fried, which mentions neither Jeffries nor Cardenas, both Bankman cronies, but ends in this warning from Heer:
Unfortunately, centrist Democrats have decided to align themselves with this mixture of greed and militant stupidity. In doing so, they’ve given a massive gift to the Republicans—particularly the extreme right. If, like Yglesias, they really are believers in effective altruism and consequentialism, they might want to ponder the long-term impact of their corrupt politics.
This morning, reporting for TruthOut, Sharon Zhang, wrote that “Jeffries could be far more hostile to leftists [than Pelosi] if his past positions are a reflection of how he would lead; if Pelosi was a force that stopped progressives in their tracks, Jeffries could be a bludgeon actively forcing the progressive movement back, depending on how he decides to exercise his power… [He] identifies as a progressive but has alliances in the center or right wing of the party; as the American Prospect reported last year, the New York lawmaker has stayed silent as supposed fellow progressives have lobbied for issues in recent years, and started a PAC last year, called Team Blue, that was formed specifically to protect Democratic incumbents from progressive challengers. His co-founder for Team Blue was Rep. Josh Gottheimer (New Jersey), a conservative Democrat who was key in torpedoing the Build Back Better Act last year.” (It’s worth mentioning that on every step of the ladder that led to Jeffries current position, he primaries Democratic incumbents.)
Zhang also reported that in an interview he gave the NY Times last year, Jeffries attacked anti-establishment leftists:
The extreme left is obsessed with talking trash about mainstream Democrats on Twitter, when the majority of the electorate constitute mainstream Democrats at the polls. In the post-Trump era, the anti-establishment line of attack is lame— when President Biden and Democratic legislators are delivering millions of good-paying jobs, the fastest-growing economy in 40 years and a massive child tax cut.
“Jeffries,” she wrote, “may view anti-establishment views as a personal attack. Even in times when Democrats as a whole may have been pivoting away from Wall Street, Jeffries has taken donations from deep-pocketed conservative interests; he has been one of Congress’s leading recipients of hedge fund donations and is one of the only Democrats who has taken donations from Fox News’s PAC, News Corp. At the same time, Jeffries has taken positions that progressives— or at least many within the progressive base— would find heinous. For instance, he is vehemently pro-Israel, and has supported legislation that would penalize companies and Americans that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement; this legislation is a major slap in the face to Palestinian advocates and could endanger Americans’ right to participate in political boycotts at all.”
And as Zak Cheney-Rice pointed out this morning, Jeffries becoming House Democrats’ next leader is not necessarily a sign of progress. No, not necessarily-- in fact, not at all. First black Speaker, dawn of a new generation… yeah sure. Just a worse establishment shill than the last leader, is a more accurate description. Cheney-Rice wrote that “The New York Democratic machine that Jeffries helps lead cost Democrats the House in a year when it proved surprisingly winnable. Much of the blame lies with Andrew Cuomo, who packed the State Supreme Court with conservative justices. The redistricting they imposed ensured that at least five seats went to Republicans that should have gone to Democrats. One belonged to Sean Patrick Maloney, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and had to bigfoot his way into a new district in the aftermath of the court’s decision. Jeffries and Pelosi are pushing the narrative that Maloney sacrificed himself to boost Democrats elsewhere. But according to Slate, quoting several Democratic grassroots groups, he ran a mediocre campaign and never became familiar with his new constituents.”
[Jeffries’] corporate-centrist inclinations are consistent with the evolving role of the Congressional Black Caucus. Once viewed as a thorn in the side of party leaders because of its agitation on behalf of everyday Black people, the self-styled “conscience of Congress” has gotten much bigger and more influential in its 51 years. Now the CBC resembles more of a professional organization for protecting incumbents and advancing the careers of its members. Its strong ties with sketchy corporate partners— including Walmart and Altria (formerly Philip Morris)— illustrate how far it has traveled from the margins of influence to the center. The shift has also made the organization flexible with its stated principles. It purports to withhold endorsements in races for open seats in which two Black candidates are running, but it gladly threw its weight behind moderate Shontel Brown when she faced leftist Nina Turner in their Ohio primary this year. In 2020, after white incumbent Eliot Engel said he “wouldn’t care” about a Bronx anti-police-abuse event if he “didn’t have a primary,” Jeffries supported him against Black challenger Jamaal Bowman.
Jeffries is a closer contemporary to Bowman, Ocasio-Cortez, and Cori Bush than to Pelosi, James Clyburn, and other members of the party’s gerontocratic leadership. Yet perhaps his defining in-caucus alliance is with Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, one of the most conservative Democratic congressmen, who has threatened to blow up Biden’s agenda to defend tax breaks for the wealthy. Together with Alabama’s Terri Sewell, they formed the Team Blue PAC last year to protect incumbents against primaries from their left— which doubles as a warning shot to newly elected leftists such as Summer Lee…
All of which calls into question what making the Democratic Party leadership class younger and Blacker actually means. If the biggest changes to Democratic policy and governance of the past several years have been the leftward shift driven by younger and less white officials, then the Brooklyn congressman has not been a meaningful part of it. On the contrary, he has often been an impediment. His reward has been a rapid ascent up the party’s ranks secured by endearing himself to its elders and siding with longtime incumbents and party leaders even as they’ve grown out of touch with their constituents. Much will be made of the historic nature of his promotion and the change it appears to signify. But for the party Establishment, the benefit of this generational change appears to be stasis.
Meanwhile rumored runs for top leadership positions by Adam Schiff, Pramila Jayapal and Joe Neguse have all completely evaporated. There’s a lot of talent in the Democratic conference that would make the Democratic Party a better vehicle for the legitimate aspirations of working families— from AOC, the aforementioned Pramila, Jamal Bowman and Ro Khanna to Jamie Raskin, Ted Lieu, Barbara Lee and did I mention AOC herself— rather than a stalking horse for Wall Street, AIPAC and cryptocurrency criminals.
As for Aguilar, by the way, his voting record— which consistently scores an “F”— and these two photos say it all. This first one was back when Aguilar was part of rotgut Republican boss Jerry Lewis’ posse— before Pete had decided his career would be best served as a New Dem, rather than as a Republican in a rapidly blue-ing area:
And this second one, shows a photo of an untreated coke freak who is still tpo this day closing the bars in DC almost nightly:
Leadership! This is what leadership is, not Hakeem Jeffries and Pete Aguilar, let alone Ami Bera and Tony Cardenas: