Current House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn sent a somber letter to his Democratic colleagues today announcing his intention to run for House Minority Whip in the 112th Congress.
After lamenting “disappointing defeats,” Clyburn made a clear bid for the job, writing, “My record of leadership in our Caucus has prepared me well for the challenges ahead. I am confident we can rebuild the coalition that carried Democrats and President Obama into office in 2008 and that it will lead us on the road back to the majority in 2012.”
It’s possible that Clyburn will battle with current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for the Whip position, but the conservative Hoyer would probably lose that match-up. Tuesday’s elections eliminated much of the House’s Blue Dog constituency, making it a perfect time for Clyburn to challenge Hoyer’s power.
Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today that she is running for House Minority Leader.
Clyburn’s full letter below.
-Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
Dear Democratic Colleague:
There is no running away from the cold hard facts of Tuesday’s results. From coast to coast, in every type of district, in every region of the country, we suffered disappointing defeats. We lost our House majority and with it, many thoughtful, dedicated, and hardworking public servants. We must acknowledge the hard truths, earn back the trust of the American people, and redouble our commitment to the values that delivered us into the majority in 2006. And no amount of hand wringing, finger pointing, and excuse making can substitute for listening and learning. Our Caucus is at a crossroads we have seen before. In 1946 and 1952, Democrats found themselves in similar situations; on both occasions, we were able to regain the majority two years later.
I am seeking your support and vote for Democratic Whip. Throughout the course of my tenure, I have demonstrated the ability and willingness to give selfless service to our Caucus. My record of leadership in our Caucus has prepared me well for the challenges ahead. I am confident we can rebuild the coalition that carried Democrats and President Obama into office in 2008 and that it will lead us on the road back to the majority in 2012.
There are a number of reasons we lost seats. We lost because of historical and structural factors—the president’s party always loses seats in a midterm election. We lost because of the nation’s 9.5 percent unemployment rate—the recovery is slow and we continue to pay for the failures of the Bush years. And we lost because of the tsunami of secret special interest money that funneled tens of millions of dollars into attack ads against us. But at the end of the day, we must not waste time making excuses.
At the same time, we should have no regrets about the achievements of the last two years. The 111th Congress will be remembered as the most productive since the New Deal. Our historic accomplishments have made our country stronger and its people more secure. We gave a tax cut to 95 percent of the American people and closed tax loopholes that rewarded companies that send jobs overseas. We fulfilled the century-long dream of making access to quality health care a fundamental right. We made a college education more affordable. We ended Wall Street abuses, established a credit card holders “Bill of Rights,” and saw statutory PAYGO signed into law. But while we won the inside game—racking up one legislative victory after another—we lost the outside game.
There is general acknowledgement that we lost the communications battle on too many fronts. And while our defeat cannot entirely be attributed to a communications problem, I believe it was a significant factor. I know that good policy does not always make for good politics, but I also know that good records and effective messaging do. To regain our majority, Democrats must offer a clear and concise narrative that wins back the trust and allegiance of independent, middle class, and moderate voters. They need to KNOW that we are on their side. In both message and strategy, we must tap into the innate optimism of the American people—noting that while the times are challenging, there has never been a better time to be living in America, and that our policies will create greater opportunities for all Americans.
Last Tuesday’s election swept into power many reactionary, ideological candidates with extremist views on taxes, regulation, Social Security, Medicare, immigration, women, and health care. We must highlight these fringe ideas and make Republicans own and account for the extremists in their ranks. As the minority party in the House, we no longer set the agenda, but we must offer common sense alternatives and work with the President and the Senate Democratic majority to build upon the foundation we’ve already laid. The road back to the majority will require a laser-like focus, a consistent and coherent message, and hard work at the grassroots level. I know this path can be successful because it is a road we have traveled before.
I have always found that you get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself. Most of you know my record, and all of you have my promise that I will listen to each and every Member and work harder than anyone to achieve our goals. By working together, respecting each other, and celebrating our diversity, we will come back a stronger and more resilient majority. I hope that I can count on your support for Democratic Whip, and I look forward to working with you in the 112th Congress.
With kind regards, I remain
James E. Clyburn