Pictures of passing the torch might be stirring.
President John Kennedy reached heights of inaugural oratory when he declared that “the torch has been handed to a brand new technology of Individuals.” Three many years later, when Invoice Clinton received the presidency, a Newsweek headline proclaimed “THE TORCH PASSES.” The article beneath glorified “a movie clip that made its means right into a broadly seen marketing campaign advert: a beaming, 16-year-old Invoice Clinton on a sun-drenched White Home garden, shaking the hand of his and his technology’s idol, John F. Kennedy.”
Weeks later, when Time journal named Clinton “Man of the 12 months,” its cowl story carried the headline “THE TORCH IS PASSED.”
The Clinton presidency went on to hold the torch for corporate-friendly measures. The NAFTA commerce pact destroyed many well-paying union jobs; “welfare reform” harmed poor girls and their households; a landmark crime legislation fueled mass incarceration; Wall Road deregulation led to the monetary meltdown of 2007-2008.
Now, the highest of the Democratic Social gathering is passing torches on Capitol Hill. When Nancy Pelosi introduced two weeks in the past that she’s going to now not lead Home Democrats, she mentioned: “The hour has come for a brand new technology to guide.” However in what path?
Pelosi rapidly endorsed Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to switch her as chief. NBC Information supplied the frequent media body: “Pelosi made historical past as the primary feminine speaker of the Home, whereas Jeffries, the present Democratic Caucus chairman, would turn into the primary Black chief of a congressional caucus and highest-ranking Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill.”
You’ll be able to rely on a lot of the mass media to bathe the 52-year-old Jeffries with accolades, largely equipped by fellow Democrats. However, total, a more in-depth look reveals a problematic file.
Early on, earlier than changing into a New York state legislator, Jeffries labored for years as a company lawyer. In Congress—whereas he has taken a couple of progressive positions like cosponsoring Medicare for All and voting to chop 10 p.c of the army finances—his emphasis has been in sync with the get together institution.
“I’m a Black progressive Democrat involved with addressing racial and social and financial injustice with the fierce urgency of now,” Jeffries advised The Atlantic in August 2021. However throughout the identical interview, Jeffries added: “There’ll by no means be a second the place I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” (Mockingly, Jeffries was echoing the “fierce urgency of now” phrase from Martin Luther King Jr., who was a democratic socialist.)
Jeffries likes to jab leftward. In 2016, he referred to as Bernie Sanders a “gun-loving socialist with zero foreign-policy expertise.” A 2018 profile in The Economist—titled “Excessive Hopes for Hakeem Jeffries” – concluded that he “is almost as average as a safe-seat Democrat will get.” The article identified: “Although he helps the precept of common healthcare protection, he speaks of ‘the significance of market forces and getting issues finished in a accountable vogue.’ Quoting Ronald Reagan approvingly, he suggests this implies selling a flourishing non-public sector exterior the ‘official capabilities’ of presidency.”
Congressman Jeffries takes umbrage at unfavorable press portrayals to such an extent that his workplace tries to quash important assessments. After I wrote in a HuffPost piece in January 2019 that “Jeffries has been extra attentive to serving company energy than the pursuits of voters in his Brooklyn district,” the response was swift and offended. Jeffries’s communications director and senior advisor on the time, Michael Hardaway, fired off emails to HuffPost, claiming that my characterization was “factually inaccurate and simply disproven.” Regardless of the escalating fulminations, the HuffPost editor defined that he noticed “no purpose to right or replace the piece.”
Jeffries has not been a sponsor of the Inexperienced New Deal (which Pelosi famously denigrated in 2019: “The inexperienced dream or no matter they name it, no person is aware of what it’s, however they’re for it, proper?”). He additionally has not cosponsored the Inexperienced New Deal for Cities Act.
In the course of the newest election cycle, Jeffries joined forces with one of the crucial company and vitriolic anti-progressive Democrats within the Home, Josh Gottheimer, to kind Staff Blue PAC. Its precedence – to guard the get together’s incumbents in opposition to Squad-like major challengers – was summed up final winter in a Rolling Stone headline over an article about Jeffries’s initiative: “Prime Home Democrat Unveils Plan to Beat Again Progressive Riot.”
Final yr, The American Prospect reported, Jeffries was conspicuously absent from efforts to assist public housing in his house metropolis. “When all [other] New York Metropolis Home Democrats despatched a letter to Pelosi urging her to guard all $80 billion for public housing within the BBB [Build Back Better bill], Jeffries was the one member to not signal that missive, particularly shocking on condition that New York Dems are recognized to behave as a bloc.”
Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the journal famous, however that affiliation shouldn’t be taken at face worth: “Jeffries is a mute member of the CPC, the biggest caucus within the get together, however has just lately chosen to ally himself with its extra conservative factions. And whereas the get together’s average wing has moved left on every part from international coverage to social welfare, Jeffries has not moved with it.”
In reality, Hakeem Jeffries is completely company, As The Intercept reported 4 years in the past, after he received an in depth race in opposition to Rep. Barbara Lee to turn into chair of the Home Democratic Caucus, “Jeffries is closely backed by huge cash and company PACs. Lower than 2 p.c of his fundraising comes from small donors, who contribute lower than $200, in line with Federal Election Fee data.”
Whereas in his fourth time period, “Jeffries was the main congressional recipient of hedge fund cash in 2020,” The American Prospect reported final yr. “He banked $1.1 million from the monetary sector, actual property pursuits, and insurance coverage trade within the 2019–2020 cycle. Everybody from JPMorgan Chase to Goldman Sachs to Blackstone contributed. Zimmer Companions, a hedge fund, is one in every of Jeffries’s high donors in 2021. From the outset, he has ruled with these pursuits at coronary heart. Whereas Democrats had been reconsidering their coziness with Wall Road, he broke ranks to vote with the monetary companies world, together with on a high-profile measure actually written by Citigroup lobbyists in 2013 that killed the Dodd-Frank ‘swaps push-out’ rule, permitting banks to have interaction in dangerous trades backed by a possible taxpayer-funded bailout.”
Thirty years youthful than the outgoing speaker, Jeffries is a becoming image of media eagerness to herald generational change for Democrats in Congress. However investigative journalist Alexander Sammon has offered an apt sum-up: “Barely in his fifties, Jeffries is younger numerically, however aligned with an older mode of Democratic politics, and has repeatedly distanced himself from the youthful crop of Democrats that’s nearly categorically extra progressive (and extra fashionable). He’s made a fame for himself because the get together’s future by changing into a foremost consultant of its previous.”