After securing enough votes in November, Hakeem Jeffries is now the Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. Jeffries, a longtime ally of Nancy Pelosi, has long been an outspoken advocate against the party’s left wing. His nomination is a spit in the face of left-wing organizers who helped deliver the Democrats’ unprecedented midterm results.
As speaker, Pelosi was no friend of the American left wing, though soon they will be reminiscing on her days as speaker. Her ideology was at odds with the progressive wing of the party, but her political instincts let her understand their importance. Jeffries does not have these instincts and is quick to alienate the left wing. Last year, he vowed, “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” For a party heading into a tough 2024 election cycle, isolating a large portion of the Democratic voting bloc shows just how unserious the Democrats are about serving as an opposition to right-wing extremism.
The 2022 midterms again proved the vitality of the youth vote. Jeffries is young for a politician and has long been labeled an “up-and-coming star,” but he is not the appeal to young voters that the party leadership thinks he is. He is at odds with the younger generation of generally progressive voters. For one, he is one of Israel’s most loyal defenders, with extensive ties to Israeli lobbying groups. Despite adding his name to Medicare for All co-sponsors, his talk on health care has also been moderate, with his language usually touting gradual expansion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as the best solution. He even quoted Ronald Reagan on the importance of market forces and fiscal responsibility and referred to Bernie Sanders as a “gun-loving socialist.”
Jeffries makes it clear that the Democratic Party will not pivot from its previous path but instead dig its feet further into the ground. Progress at a snail’s pace is not good enough considering the paramount perils of issues like climate change, income inequality and health care not being guaranteed.
The Republican Party is clearly the party of regression — however, the Democratic Party’s lack of identity renders its existence useless. This lack of identity is what keeps it running, allowing it to be open to outsider influence, but as a political apparatus, it is futile. Many on the left argue that the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans, but this is also untrue — it is just nothing worth preserving.
Hakeem Jeffries’ appointment makes it clear the Democrats do not have what it takes to resist the ultra-conservative Republican Party. We see this with the rail workers’ struggle for an increase in sick days. The Democratic Party was once the party of labor unions, but now they have to be pushed to support the rail workers trying to receive modest improvements to their exploitation. Biden has sided with rail industry barons to force the rail workers to accept an inadequate deal. Republicans are the obvious party of big business, but if the Democrats are not the party of workers, then they have no value in existing.
Nathan Sommer is a sophomore majoring in history.