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December 2, 2022

Hakeem Jeffries

House Democrats ushered in a new generation of leaders on Wednesday with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries elected to be the first Black American to head a major political party in Congress.” AP News

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From the Left

The left is generally supportive of Jeffries, and celebrates that he is the first Black minority leader.

“Jeffries’ election to be the first Black minority leader in American history reflects the potential, possibility and power of multiracial democracy. The 52-year-old congressman… reflects both a generational and cultural shift from retiring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose legendary tenure made her a trailblazing feminist icon and an impeccably dressed breaker of glass ceilings, unafraid of tussling in public with former President Donald Trump…

“That a Generation X, hip-hop-quoting congressman has become the first Black person to lead a major party, with the potential of ascending to the speaker spot depending on the 2024 elections, is [remarkable].”

Peniel E. Joseph, CNN

“To get a sense of how Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) will approach the job of House minority leader, look no further than his work on the 2018 First Step Act, his supporters say. Jeffries was a lead House sponsor of that bill, the most significant criminal justice reform to pass Congress in years. To get it done, he collaborated with a wide spectrum of Democrats, the Trump administration, and Republican co-sponsor Rep. Doug Collins. Jeffries’s willingness to work with all of these groups and weigh their input ensured the measure ultimately came to fruition, according to other House members…

“Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who worked alongside Jeffries in leadership, said they took a similar approach in crafting the ‘For the People’ agenda, which included policies like lowering prescription drug costs and childcare subsidies. ‘I think virtually every single member of the Democratic caucus participated in either a meeting or listening session with [Rep.] Cheri [Bustos], Hakeem, and me,’ he told Vox… [But] To actually unite his entire caucus, Jeffries will need to do more to reach those — including some progressives — he’s been dismissive of before.”

Li Zhou, Vox

Critics ask, “When outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced two weeks ago that she would step back… she said: ‘The hour has come for a new generation to lead.’ But in what direction?… Early on, before becoming a New York state legislator, Jeffries worked for years as a corporate lawyer. In Congress, while he has taken a few progressive positions like co-sponsoring Medicare for All and voting to cut 10 percent of the military budget, his emphasis has been in sync with the party establishment…

“Jeffries has not been a sponsor of the Green New Deal (which Pelosi famously denigrated in 2019)… Jeffries was conspicuously absent from efforts to support public housing in his home city: ‘When all [other] New York City House Democrats sent a letter to Pelosi urging her to protect all $80 billion for public housing in the BBB [Build Back Better bill], Jeffries was the only member not to sign that missive.’… Jeffries is heavily backed by big money and corporate PACs. Less than 2 percent of his fundraising comes from small donors.”

Norman Solomon, Salon

From the Right

The right is generally critical of Jeffries, and argues that he is an election denier.

The right is generally critical of Jeffries, and argues that he is an election denier.

“[Jeffries] has repeatedly denied the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election. Jeffries said in September 2018 that Republicans had cheated in the 2016 presidential election and stole two Supreme Court seats. He tweeted in February 2018 that ‘the more we learn about 2016 election the more ILLEGITIMATE it becomes. America deserves to know whether we have a FAKE President in the Oval Office.’…

“Jeffries is noxiously partisan, the product of both the liberal New York City bubble and the liberal Twitter bubble. He is going to use his position as House minority leader (and, eventually, as speaker of the House) to make our politics more toxic by denying election results he doesn’t like and by trying to divide Americans along racial lines…

“While Democrats demand Republicans soften their rhetoric after the attack on Pelosi’s husband, they intend to replace Pelosi with a far more inflammatory House leader. It’s all an act — and it is going to continue to make our politics even worse.”

Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

“Among the muddled results of this year’s elections there were a few clear messages. Voters tended not to support candidates who had refused to accept the results of legitimate elections. And in New York state specifically, a very liberal electorate registered its displeasure with the party in power by handing four Democratic seats in the U.S. House over to the GOP…

“So it may seem a little odd that House Democrats now appear set to choose as their new chief a New York Democrat who was a 2016 election denier, to use the popular media phrase. But it also represents an opportunity for expected House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to chart a new course toward a healthier and less divisive politics…

“As the leader of House Democrats, Mr. Jeffries will surely be making speeches condemning Donald Trump—it’s almost part of the job description. Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change in our polarized politics for Mr. Jeffries to couple his denunciations of the former president’s reaction to the 2020 Biden victory with a rejection of Mrs. Clinton’s reaction to the 2016 Trump victory? Ideally Mr. Jeffries would also condemn her campaign’s promotion of the Russia collusion hoax, a historic pollution of our politics, and express regret for helping to spread the poison.”

James Freeman, Wall Street Journal

Some argue that “Yes, like Pelosi, he’ll have to wrangle radical leftists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Bx-Queens) and liberals among his party. But he may deliver better results: Though a member of the Congressional Progressive Party, he’s defended Israel and sensibly opposed defunding cops. ‘There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism,’ he vowed last year. Hear, hear.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

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