Congressman Joe Crowley
By Ray O’Hanlon
Congressman Joe Crowley had a busy Thursday.
In the morning he was the subject of a breaking story in which he was at the center of a draft effort by some House Democrats to unseat former Speaker and current minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and replace her with the New York Irish-American legislator.
By Thursday afternoon, Crowley’s office had released a statement indicating that Crowley was making a move – though not after Pelosi’s job.
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In the initial report, The Hill newspaper highlighted “a small group of frustrated House Democrats” that “is agitating for big changes.”
This agitation was manifesting itself in an attempt to draft Crowley to challenge Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the party’s top leadership spot in the next Congress.
According to The Hill report, the recruitment effort came as a chorus of rank-and-file Democrats — particularly younger members — were up in arms over the party’s messaging and outreach strategy after a torturous election cycle that has put the Republicans in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress starting in the New Year.
“Those voices are seeking a new direction for the party, one that appeals to a broader range of voters and puts the Democrats in a position to win back power in 2018. Some see Crowley, the gregarious and imposing 6-foot-5-inch vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus and a prolific fundraiser, as the figure to lead the way,” the report stated.
The report did point out that the odds were slim that the nine-term lawmaker – whose New York district is mostly in Queens with a smaller post in the Bronx – would respond positively to the draft attempt.
The report added that Crowley, 54, has had “a few run-ins with Pelosi in the past,” but that the two “have moved onto the same page, especially since Crowley joined her leadership team.”
And it continued: “And Crowley, who’s very close to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip, is highly unlikely to attempt to leapfrog the No. 2 Democrat by taking on Pelosi.”
These factors, however, had not stopped the recruitment effort.
“He’s a good man, a good leader and he’s liked by all,” a source told The Hill when asked why Crowley was being recruited.
By the time the Hill report broke, Pelosi had announced her official run for the leader’s post with a letter to colleagues calling for party unity. And she proclaimed that she had already secured support from two-thirds of the Democratic house caucus.
This, according to the Hill, was being seen as “an unveiled warning to potential challengers that they need not dare.”
Even if Pelosi, as most still expect, wins the leadership contest, Crowley’s star appears to be well and truly on the rise.
By Thursday afternoon, the congressman, who is already Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, was hoisting it higher himself, though not so high as to unsettle Pelosi.
In a letter to “Dear Democratic Colleague,” Crowley, who has served nine terms in New York’s 14th District, stated: “November 8th was a difficult day for our country, our party, and our caucus.
“The American people sent us a message, and they expect us to respond. We need to start now – not wait two years or four years, and I am glad that as a caucus we have started the conversations that we need to have.
“It is evident that a great portion of voters do not believe we share their same vision for America, and so as we move forward, our caucus must be focused on developing policies and messages that better resonate with the American people.
“I have been heartened to hear so many voices in our caucus sharing ideas on how we can do better, and I deeply appreciate what you all have expressed to me and to our broader caucus. I want to continue to work with you all in helping to chart this path forward for our caucus, and that is why I am seeking your support to serve as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.”
Crowley, in his letter, focused on the need for unity and teamwork and also turned a critical eye on president-elect Trump.
“I have been incredibly privileged to serve as Vice Chair of the Caucus for the past four years, and I have made it a priority to listen to, and to really hear, our members and their thoughts and concerns,” he wrote.
“What’s clear is that no single individual will be able to lead us back into the majority. What we need is a truly collaborative effort. I am committed to creating an inclusive environment within our caucus, which means broadening beyond the usual messengers and building our strategies and our goals from the ground up.
“We all agree that Democrats are the party with a vision and that we are the ones working on behalf of the American people.
“Our challenge now is to better connect with voters – in this election, they were not telling us what they saw on social media or read in the news, but how they feel.
“Getting in touch with American voters will require focusing on more than polls and fundraising records. We need to think differently about how to make sure that all Americans realize our party includes them, and that it looks out for them.
“I grew up in working-class Queens, New York – only a few miles away from where Donald Trump himself grew up, yet very much on the other side of the tracks.
“Mr. Trump and I certainly experienced two very different upbringings, and chose two very different paths in life. I grew up the son of an immigrant mother and a New York City policeman father in a community sustained by working-class and, in many cases, first-generation Americans.
“It’s a community populated by firefighters, teachers, construction workers, small-business owners, and new immigrants. They all feel uncertain about their economic futures, like many Americans across the country.
“My district is one of the most diverse places in the nation, but what my constituents all have in common is a desire to ensure a better life for themselves and their children.
“For us to help them make that dream a reality, we need to make sure that all of our communities feel we are listening to them, hearing their voices, and gaining a better understanding of their struggles. It is the only way we will be able to show the American people we are on their side and bring them back to us. I believe I can help build bridges to all Americans.
“This is a critical time for our party and our caucus. We need independent messengers who can go toe-to-toe with a President Trump and stand up for Americans who feel left behind – and who will certainly be left behind by Republican attempts to end Medicare and Social Security, offer tax breaks for the rich, and gut investments in job training and education.
“I have always fought against bullies, and that’s how we need to approach the biggest bully of all for the next four years.
“It is more important than ever that we keep fighting – against damaging Republican attempts to roll back all the good work we did with President Obama, but also for policies that ensure good jobs for all Americans and strengthen working families. I am confident that our caucus has the tools and the talent to make our case to the American people and regain their hearts and minds.
“What I love about our caucus – what makes me proud every single day – is the genuine diversity of ideas, backgrounds, and experiences that we all contribute. I want to ensure that the Democratic Caucus is a place for members to come together and not just share their thoughts, but to also engage, inspire, and yes, challenge one another.
“As Vice Chair, I deeply appreciated the chance to reach out to all our members, and I focused on creating initiatives like Caucus on Your Corner to give members a platform to share good ideas that work. I look forward to the opportunity to build on those efforts as Caucus Chair.
“I am proud to be a Democrat. We are the party of the people, the party that is welcoming to all. I hope you will provide me with the opportunity to serve as your Caucus Chair so I can help to ensure that our message is being spread to every community and every American.”