While it may be tempting for some to fit Ocasio-Cortez’s condemnation of Pelosi and Schumer into the party’s ongoing civil war, that analysis is somewhat inaccurate. Under Pelosi and Schumer, the party has catered to conservative and moderate members while alienating its rising progressive flank, and Ocasio-Cortez’s specific criticisms of Pelosi are certainly informed by ideology. But hostility to Pelosi doesn’t just come from the left. In 2018, opposition to her re-election looked strongest on the party’s right. Two years earlier, moderate Tim Ryan challenged her for speaker, only to lose. For Pelosi’s progressive critics, this is a problem. Opposing Pelosi’s re-election as speaker really only makes sense if they have the numbers and influence to replace her with an ally, and right now, they don’t. Ocasio-Cortez recognizes this. “If you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse,” she told Scahill. As long as Pelosi remains to the left of her most organized critics, left-wing Democrats have little choice but to vote for her.
House progressives may agree with their moderate colleagues about the state of the party’s leadership class. It has become sclerotic, and ought to be replaced. But generational change isn’t always the same thing as a major ideological shift. If left-wing Democrats such as Ocasio-Cortez want to plot a new direction for the party, they don’t have much time left to build the power it will take to replace Pelosi with one of their own.
By Sarah Jones