By: J. Crawford, Columnist
Views expressed in the column are the author’s own.
Midterm elections are already on the minds of most silent activists as some progressives and radicals brace for what could be either an earth-shattering loss or a mild skip-hop in our biennial peaceful overthrow of the government.
It has always been commonplace for the party in the White House to lose House and Senate seats in the midterms, but this election comes at a time where an enduring pandemic and the stagnation of a liberal agenda turns several nervous eyes towards congressional districts primed to turn red.
Pinning legislative gridlock entirely on conservative Republican congressmen who oppose common-sense reform isn’t necessarily productive when the divisions in the Democratic Party are thick enough to be seen without a magnifying glass. The American Left is plagued by a less impressive strain of the factionalism seen in the late 1960s. There is a very real conflict between conservative and progressive Democrats, one that inhibits progress and harms a streamlined agenda.
Steny Hoyer, the US House of Representatives Democratic Majority Leader, second to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has to go. The Old Guard representing Maryland’s 5th Congressional District is 82 years old, politely outdated, and a significant obstacle to the progress of the more radical elements of the party that I, for transparency’s sake, identify with.
Hoyer has held office in the House since 1981, a two-time House majority leader with an extended stint as the minority whip. He’s been a faithful ally to a moderate Democrat agenda for over forty years, voting traditionally along party lines. In the last decade, however, as party lines begin to shift and young people begin to drift farther in favor of leftist policies, Hoyer’s unchanging views have been unsavory for some progressive coalitions within the party.
In the last five years, Hoyer joined a House resolution condemning the United Nations’ position against Israeli encroachment on Palestinian territory. This came not too long before he backed then-President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He was opposed to the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2019, indicative of his unchanging views on foreign policy. Hoyer was an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq long after public favor turned against it. War, imperialism, and antagonism have always been subjects of near-unanimous disdain by progressives.
But for the inward-looking American, Steny Hoyer’s biggest problem remains with the Climate Crisis. The Green New Deal has been a fierce topic of debate since its conception in 2018; it draws criticism from some conservatives for being needlessly idealist and unrealistic, for capitalizing on a not-so-urgent problem to benefit a political agenda. For the generations of youth (and their allies in Congress), combatting the climate crisis has been an issue of gathering legitimacy and political capital to push real reform through Congress. When the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis was finally authorized in 2018, Steny Hoyer was responsible for souring a key victory for progressives.
While the select committee was well within their right, according to the authorizing legislation, to “Investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis,” senior Democratic leaders in the House— over which Hoyer holds massive sway—would not grant them subpoena power.
In a press conference, Hoyer noted “[the committee] will be a recommendatory committee to the Energy and Commerce Committee…I don’t know that they think they need subpoena power.”
They do. Subpoena power allows the committee to hold billionaires and fossil fuel executives accountable for the willful damage being done to the environment; without the ability to subpoena, the committee loses its spine.
Hoyer isn’t wholly responsible for the falling short of the select committee’s ambitions. However, he remains the figurehead of a conservative Democrat tradition becoming quickly out-of-style.
As these midterm elections approach, as seats teeter between blue and red, critics will argue that stagnation of policy is the cause for discontent among voters. They’re right. However, it’s critical to understand that for Democrats, the fight for real change is much more nuanced than a struggle to the death against colleagues across the aisle; progressives fight an uphill battle against their own party.
The solution is our biennial overthrow of our government. The primaries give young voters a chance to reject incumbents and push forward new candidates. Only through organization and mobilization, through flipping seats within the party, can we achieve a greater unity and progress.