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Heath Shuler, Following His Football Career, Wants to Quarterback Democrats to Defeat

I personally don’t think Nancy Pelosi will be back to take the position of Minority Leader. Aside from a return going against the historical norm (outside of Sam Rayburn in the 1940s and 50s), I don’t think she would want to put up with the garbage anymore.

However, I would strongly support her coming back just to embarrass and humiliate Heath Shuler.

Rep. Heath Shuler predicted Thursday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would act in the “best interest” of the Democratic Caucus and bow out of leadership, but said he would challenge the California Democrat for Minority Leader if she tried to stay on and no “viable alternative” candidate emerged.

“If there’s not a viable alternative — like I said all along — I can go recruit moderate Members to run in swing districts,” said Shuler, a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. “In that situation, I could do it better than she could, and that’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take moderate candidates to win back those seats.”

It’s going to take a better economy to win back those seats. Ideology had nothing to do with last night. If anything, you see that the type of voters Democrats win with didn’t turn out across most of the country, and as a result the electorate was older, richer and more conservative.

So this is ridiculous on its face, especially considering that the remaining caucus of Democrats is plurality progressive and only marginally Blue Dog. But let’s dig a little deeper. Shuler is about to start his third term. He’s not in the leadership. He hasn’t donated to any fellow Democrats in any major way. He was originally recruited as a Republican to run for his seat. He’s virulently anti-immigrant at a time when the best hope for Democrats in the future is to maintain their giant advantage over Latino voters. The only bill he’s ever tried to move in Congress had Tom Tancredo as a co-sponsor. Your Minority Leader should probably not be someone vulnerable to a party switch.

As a former (really terrible) NFL quarterback, Shuler probably thinks he’s a “leader” and can lead his caucus to victory. This would look a lot like him leading the Washington Redskins back in the day. He also thinks it’s the job of the Minority Leader to recruit candidates, as opposed to the head of the DCCC. Of course the Leader has a role to play in that, but it’s mainly a legislative position. And Shuler generally is opposed to the average Democrat in the caucus on a host of legislation.

Shuler, by the way, is OK with Steny Hoyer in charge, which should tell you something about Steny Hoyer. Hoyer said he would never challenge Pelosi for the Minority Leader post if she wants it. But if Pelosi does want to come back, this is a fight against Health Shuler that Democrats should relish.

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David Dayen

David Dayen