The Ohio congressman running to unseat Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader said Monday that the Democratic Party is playing with fire.
Rep. Tim Ryan said on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” that President-elect Donald Trump’s victory – combined with the GOP protecting its majorities in the House and Senate – sent a clear signal to lawmakers that “working-class” Americans had “flipped their middle finger to the establishment.”
“I am pulling the fire alarm right now, is what I’m doing in the Democratic Party,” Ryan said of his challenge to Pelosi. “I believe we are in denial of what’s happened, and I’m pulling the fire alarm because the house is burning down.”
And despite Democratic President Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s close loss to Trump, Ryan said he fears for the future of his party.
“We better get our act together or we will cease being a national party,” Ryan said. “We are going to be a regional party that fails to get into the majority and fails to do things on behalf of those working-class people that were the back of the Democratic Party for so long.”
Ryan is talking about people in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio – part of the so-called “blue wall” that Trump knocked down on election night. While Republicans had an overarching message – and Trump, in particular, with his “Make America Great Again” slogan – Ryan decried the lack of a simple, coherent, national message to deliver in the lead-up to Election Day.
“The problem is they talk to people in segments,” Ryan told The Washington Post on Monday. “Here’s our LGBT community. Here’s our labor guy. That doesn’t work. You stop becoming a national party.”
Things were different in previous elections, Ryan said, because of the person at the top of the ticket.
“If we don’t have Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, we can’t win elections,” Ryan told The Post. “That is an unsustainable model.”
So Ryan, who launched his bid on Thursday, proposes changes such as elevating junior members to positions of leadership and giving members whose seats may be in danger more of a voice.
“I’m talking Democratic Party 2.0,” Ryan said.
Ryan, 43, was first elected to the House in 2002, after former Rep. Jim Traficant was convicted on federal corruption charges and expelled from Congress. A fierce critic of President Bush, Ryan also pressed – and failed – to place punitive tariffs on nations such as China that were guilty of currency manipulation – a topic Trump addressed on the campaign trail numerous times.
But Ryan faces an uphill climb to become the “other Ryan” in House leadership – joining House Speaker Paul Ryan, R.-Wis.
The 76-year-old Pelosi, who has been in the House since 1987, has led Democratic congressmen since 2002, when she replaced Rep. Dick Gephardt as minority leader. Pelosi in 2006 became the first female Speaker of the House when Democrats took back the majority from Republicans. During her tenure she helped spearhead the passage of ObamaCare, which Trump has promised to repeal. Pelosi lost the speakership in 2010 when Republicans won control of the House, but she remained in a marquee role as minority leader.
Democrats are set to vote for their leader on Nov. 30.