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WASHINGTON – Several months after a handful of House Democrats attempted to replace Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader, who has been exercising her dealmaking skills with President Donald Trump as of late, the conference’s most critical voices of the longtime California lawmaker remain sour on her leadership.
After the 2016 election, in which Trump won and Republicans maintained their majorities in the House and Senate, many Democrats were furious. In the House, their anger prompted a challenge against Pelosi for party leader, which failed when Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan only garnered 63 votes to Pelosi’s 134.
The frustration with Democratic leadership from their younger voices continued when none of the special elections vacated by Trump’s Cabinet picks were flipped from red to blue – especially in the expensive race in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, where Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel.
Months later, those critical Democrats say nothing has changed. New York Rep. Kathleen Rice told Business Insider “the internal workings of the caucus and the stranglehold that [Pelosi] has on top makes it very difficult for anyone to get the experience to be able to be in leadership positions.”
“And I still think that 2018 is going to be more difficult than people think for Democrats,” Rice added. “We have to have an economic message and we have to have effective messengers.”
Rep. Seth Moulton, an Iraq war veteran who won a primary victory against an establishment-aligned Democrat in Massachusetts’ 6th district in 2014, told Business Insider, “I don’t think anything significant has changed.”
“She’s done a good job with those meetings [with Trump] but the bottom line is we need to win,” Moulton said. “We need to get back in the majority. That’s how we really do well in those meetings, by having the leverage of being in the majority and that’s what this is about.”
Moulton said he doesn’t have a personal problem with Pelosi – rather, his frustrations lie with the grip she holds over the structure of the conference.
“She’s done a remarkable job in many respects, but it’s time for a new generation of leadership in the party to move us forward and to start winning again,” he said.
But other members were less critical of Pelosi than they were months ago.
“I certainly think there has been [progress] and that’s because the members in the caucus itself diversified its leadership and by demanding more leadership positions, including the DPCC, which is like our communications position,” said Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego.”But that was because after the disappointment of 2016, that people came back and said we wanted to have more accountability and more leadership open positions to the full caucus.”
And Ryan, who was the public face of the challenge to Pelosi’s leadership, has changed his tune on the Democratic Party going forward.
“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction in my opinion,” Ryan told Business Insider. “I like how we’re moving in a direction of jobs. I just saw how we’re coming out with a universal broadband plan and I think those are the kinda things we need to start talking about. So things are moving in the right direction.”
And Ryan is taking a different tone from Rice’s opinion that younger Democrats are not being given the chance to climb the ladder.
“You see guys like Hakeem [Jeffries], Cheri Bustos – You see [David] Cicilline, you see [Eric] Swalwell, Cedric Richmond,” he said. “So I think you’re starting to see more younger members getting a little bit more play through the media. I think that’s a good thing too. The American people should really see what we look like as a caucus and that there are young people moving up the ranks here.”