Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been privately cultivating support for Rep. Maxine Waters to assume the House Speakership when the next Congress is seated in January. In the arrangement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi would be asked to step aside for a new leadership team.
The Democratic Party’s identity-based organizing strategy has manifested competitive pressures and socio-racial anxieties inside the caucus. The Black Caucus, given the community’s loyalty to the party and powerful ability to mobilize voters with fear and bile, see themselves as deserving of the constitutional levers of power that come with the Speakership.
Meanwhile, the Rust Belt, Latino, and gay communities have growing ambitions on the Speakership themselves. An all-out leadership battle would stalemate in a plurality until sufficient coalition building unfolds behind the scenes. That would mean, almost certainly, that the next Speaker will bring back earmark spending on member-items, largely in order to buy the votes that would secure the office.
Waters and Pelosi are longtime California officeholders who are seen as close allies, but the Black Caucus’ prodding of Waters in recent months has inspired some distance between the two. In recent years, Rep. James Clyburn had been mentioned as a potential successor to Pelosi, but his more reserved style is incongruent with the political tastes of the day.