Who should take Nancy Pelosi's place?
I don't mean who should be the next speaker of the house. Presumably, if the Republicans score their election victory this year House Minority Leader John Boehner will recieve the speaker's gavel and become third in line for the presidency.
I mean who should become the leader of the Democratic caucus in the US House of Representatives?
Right now the House majority leader is Steny Hoyer, a veteran congressman from Maryland. If there isn't a total change in the Democratic leadership, he might remain as the Dem's leader. Hoyer, however, is unlikely to escape unscathed should the latest poll numbers hold.
Too many people among both the Democratic base and the moderates will want the heads of the two leaders who lost a massive majority. Like the Republicans in 2006, Democrats will want to start over.
The next most senior personality in the House of Representatives is Michigan Democrat and leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, John Conyers, who currently serves as Majority Whip in the House. However, advancing Conyers to the party leadership would be a significant shift to the left for the Democrats at a time when they dominate the political center.
Rumor has it that representative Conyers is close to retirement as well.
So the next best thing we could do is consider who is most influential among House dems.
My short list, culled from the current committe chairs, is as follows:
James Oberstar has served in the US House of Representatives for 35 years representing Minnesota's 8th district. He is currently the chairman of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. Since Infrastructure issues are going to dominate the appropriations debate in the House for the next 6-12 months, he is an obvious choice to lead the Democrats.
Ike Skelton is an outside choice due to his age (Skelton is in his late 70's) but as the Chairman of the House Armed Services committee, the moderate Democrat from Missouri should get a look from the House Democratic Caucus as a potential leader during their minority years.
John Conyers in addition to the qualifications listed above, Conyers represents Detroit, one of the epicenters of the economic crisis from which we are emerging.
Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is a strong liberal presence with leadership experience in the House. His 35 years of service in the US House are augmented by a six year career in the California State Assembly. Before ascending to the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the Bush years, vigorously questioning the policies and tactics of the Bush Administration.
Rick Boucher is a long-serving congressman from southwestern Virginia. He is currently running for his 15th term in the House. Not only is he an Appalachian congressman in a swing state, but he also chairs the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, a position of rising influence. Should the Democrats hold the House and one of the committee chairs retire, Boucher would be near the top of the list to move into a chairmanship.
I would be shocked if the next leader of the Democratic caucus does not come from one of these 5.
From the standpoint of electoral strategy, a moderate swing-state representative like Oberstar, Boucher, or Waxman would be best.
However, I like to think that the Democrats should follow the lead of the GOP and play to their base and put a firebrand like Waxman or Conyers in the driver's seat. A truly liberal Speaker of the House would be fun to watch, but such a thing has never happened in my lifetime.