Moulton caves — and declares victory

With Pelosi concessions, Salem rep ends leadership challenge

IT’S EASY TO poke some fun at Seth Moulton and liken his message to that of George Aiken, the Vermont senator who famously declared in 1966 that the US should simply declare victory in Vietnam and go home. The Salem congressman threw in the towel yesterday, saying it’s time to rally around Nancy Pelosi as the next House speaker after having led the charge to see her ousted as House Democratic leader.

But for all the battering Moulton has taken, including talk of a potential primary challenge two years from now, his claim of at least partial victory is much more than just empty talk. In exchange for the support of the band of rebel lawmakers Moulton was part of, Pelosi agreed to serve no more than four years as speaker and to support a rule change that would limit any Democratic speaker and those in the top two deputy positions to no more than eight years in power.

Politico called it an “unprecedented agreement, one that marks a major win for the group of a dozen-plus Pelosi critics.” The Washington Post said Pelosi made “a significant concession” to the “demands for generational change.”

In a Globe op-ed today, Moulton framed the Democratic wave in midterm elections that saw the party retake the House as a call for bold action on important issues — and for change in the party’s top leadership posts. He says the former cause has seen victories in agreements by leadership to take up issues like gun control and form a new subcommittee on climate change. The leadership challenge proved more contentious, with Moulton and his allies facing growing calls within the party to unify around Pelosi at a time when Democrats need to focus on using their new clout against President Trump.

“With these changes, the leaders of our caucus will no longer be determined by tenure and loyalty but by frequent and open elections, giving us a better chance to change and evolve as the country does,” Moulton wrote. “Tough conversations make us stronger, not weaker, and we need to keep having them if we’re going to deliver on the change that we’ve promised the American people,” he said of the intraparty battle.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The freewheeling debate and negotiations over how to run the Democratic caucus in the House make for sharp contrast to the way the Democratic House on Beacon Hill operates. Under the golden dome, term limits on the speaker were thrown overboard nearly four years ago, and speaker-for-life Robert DeLeo seems poised to be elected to a new two-year term next month.

Rather than a robust exchange on how things should run there, it was left to outgoing Democratic state rep Cory Atkins to rip the increasingly top-down ways of the House as she made for the doors and delivered her farewell address last week. There is talk among some newly elected lawmakers about pushing for greater transparency in the Legislature. Time will tell if any of the Moulton moxie rubs off there.