Moulton coming under fire for Pelosi stance

Can you mount a rebellion without a leader?

US Rep. Seth Moulton is taking heat locally and in Washington for his opposition to Nancy Pelosi as the next House speaker, but his biggest problem seems to be the lack of a candidate to run against her.

Sixteen House Democrats, including Moulton and Rep. Stephen Lynch from Massachusetts, signed a letter on Monday saying it’s time for a change at the top when the Democrats take control of the House in January. The letter didn’t say what the signees would do if no one emerges to run against the 78-year-old Pelosi, who has led Democrats in the House since 2007. (She was speaker from 2007 to 2011.)

The stakes are high. Pelosi is expected to need 218 votes to become the next speaker. Democrats are expected to hold 232 seats in the new Congress, so the 16 in opposition could potentially block her. Pelosi is confident she will win, in part because she is skilled at political maneuvering and also because no one has stepped forward to challenge her.

Still, Pelosi’s backers are not taking anything for granted. They are bad mouthing Moulton in Washington (#fivewhiteguys is a popular hashtag dismissing his challenge), with some suggesting they may even back a candidate against him in two years. Pelosi supporters also showed up in force at a constituent meeting Moulton had in Amesbury Monday night. Many of the pro-Pelosi folks held signs saying “I Stand with Nancy” and many booed when Moulton said a majority of Democrats feel it’s time for change.

“I didn’t see Seth Moulton’s effort going this big,” Lori Stewart, the vice chair of the Salem Democrats, told the Boston Globe. “His effort to go after Nancy at this point feels very sexist and ageist.”

Isa Leshko, who organized an effort to flood Moulton’s Monday town hall with pro-Pelosi protesters, said she was “loving Seth Moulton” until recently. “The fact that he is dividing us at a time when we have this resounding blue wave, I just can’t support him,” she told the Globe.

Moulton didn’t back down. “In this last election, we elected an extraordinary group of new leaders,” Moulton said, according to the Salem News, which reported that many of those in attendance were not from the congressman’s district. “More women than ever before, more veterans than in recent memory, more LGBT candidates, more people of color. The American people cried out for change in this election. Everywhere I went, the American people said, ‘We want change. What is going on in Washington isn’t working and we need a new generation of leadership.’ I think, if our party answers that call for change that we have heard across the country by reinstalling the same status quo leadership team that we have had in place since 2006, then we are failing the American people.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose victory over a Democratic incumbent in a New York primary signaled change was in the air this fall, doesn’t sound like she is convinced change is need at the top of the House. “When I was reading this letter that was kind of released today, my main concern was that there is no vision, there is no common value, there is no goal that is really articulated in this letter aside from we need to change,” she told MSNBC.

She also warned that ousting Pelosi could set the stage for more conservative leadership. “I mean, if anything, I think that what it does that it creates a window where we could potentially get more conservative leadership and when you actually look at the signatories, it is not necessarily reflective of the diversity of the party,” the Congresswoman-elect said.

Ayanna Pressley, a change-agent who defeated incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano in the Massachusetts Democratic primary, hasn’t said where she stands on the speaker fight.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Meanwhile, Globe columnist Joan Vennocchi is thanking Moulton for shaking things up and conservative-leaning newspapers in his district are backing him. “Time will tell who’s right,” said an editorial in the Gloucester Times. “In the meantime, those seeking to rip down Moulton by suggesting his campaign is motivated by political opportunism or gender bias should put the ad hominem attacks to rest.”

A Lowell Sun editorial took a similar stance. “Stand your ground, Seth, and get real Democrats to see the future rather than wallowing in the past,” it said.