November 9, 2020

Hakeem Jeffries Wants Democrats to Take a Deep Breath

Most ways you slice it, House Democrats have had a turbulent few days. Swelling expectations that they would grow their majority in last week’s election crashed amid painful losses, and public blame-trading from some of the chamber’s most outspoken progressives and moderates has added a bitter note to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win.

Unbowed by the disappointment and division, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklynite who as chairman of the unruly Democratic Caucus helps plot his party’s policy and legislative strategy in the House, who announced Monday that he would seek re-election to that post. If he wins, as expected in a race in which he is unlikely to face a challenger, he would be positioned to be a crucial voice as the party figures out how to govern with an ally in the White House, but a slimmer majority on Capitol Hill.

As other Democrats compete to climb the ranks and secure a spot in the future of the party’s House leadership, Mr. Jeffries, 50, is also a top contender to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has led the party in the House since 2003, whenever she steps aside.

But while he represents a different generation of leadership from Ms. Pelosi, he sees little need to upend the approach that Democrats put in place after the 2016 election, either by veering further to the left or tacking to the center. He has no problem with a hard “family conversation” about what went wrong in last week’s elections, Mr. Jeffries said in an interview, but his pitch to fellow Democrats is that their strategy — focusing on policies that affect Americans’ wallets and broadly popular issues, like gun safety — is sound and their message is resonating. He has encouraged his colleagues to set aside the lure of “irrationally exuberant expectations,” take a deep breath, and stay focused on economic and social justice.


New York Times