Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018
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EDITORIAL

Legislative class of 2018 has great potential

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Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb is 34, but he has already made history.

He not only won the only contest between two U.S. House incumbents this year, but, within the space of months, he won two congressional races in two different congressional districts.

He has a chance to make history again: He could lead the U.S. House class of 2018 in a quest for new Democratic leadership.

Mr. Lamb first made headlines, and raised eyebrows, as a candidate when he pledged he would not vote to make Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House, should the Democrats win the House.

That was a gutsy move and established Mr. Lamb as an independent Democrat who could attract Trump voters.

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Mr. Lamb inspired other young Democratic insurgents. Twelve of them, across an ideological spectrum, followed suit and said, in the 2018 midterms, that they too would refuse to vote for Ms. Pelosi for speaker.

Another 12 Democratic House veterans are on record as saying they want new leadership.

There will be two votes on the speakership. One is in the Democratic caucus. The other is on the House floor. In the caucus, Democratic members vote for their party leader. Thus it is possible to vote against Ms. Pelosi in the caucus and for her on the floor and technically keep a promise to voters.

But that would surely be political suicide. It’s the second vote that counts. Voters would be enraged by any new member of Congress who broke a solemn promise on Day 1.

And new members of Congress should consider the Democratic senators who committed hara-kari by toeing the party line on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination.

Mr. Lamb, because he does not appear to have hedged on his promise, and because he made it first, is in a position to lead the charge.

And veterans like Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Rep. Mike Doyle (D., Pa.), and Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio), who challenged Ms. Pelosi for the party leadership in 2016 and got 63 votes, should join in.

Congress needs new leadership. The Democrats need new leadership. The gerontocracy in both parties has let the country down. And everyone in Washington and going to Washington knows it.

In 1974, a group of fresh young faces came to the Congress in the wake of Watergate — 49 of them. Their names included Chris Dodd, Tim Wirth, Paul Tsongas, and Tom Harkin. They were known as “the class of ‘74,” and though they increased the Democratic majority to above the two-thirds mark, they were not the friends of the Democratic establishment. They were eager to pull the country out of its post-Vietnam and post-Watergate cynicism. And they challenged their own leadership. They specifically took on selection of committee chairs based on seniority.

That class changed the leadership structure and it changed Congress. It won national respect.

Mr. Lamb and his class have a chance to change Congress. They need to keep their pledges but also do so in a way that is meaningful and not just an empty protest. They need a candidate whom they can vote for on the House floor. They need a centrist, probably a Democrat, but maybe even a Republican, if there is one, whom pragmatists in both parties can vote for. They need a candidate who can attract not just 25 or 50 votes but a House majority.

This majority could be cobbled together. It could be bipartisan.

If Mr. Lamb and his class start talking to each other, older Democrats and Republicans about this, Ms. Pelosi might do the right thing and withdraw, perhaps after taking the gavel for an hour or a day.

In any case, Mr. Lamb made a promise and so did many in the class of 2018. They need to keep it and keep it in a way that has teeth and shows they are a class to be reckoned with.

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