High Hopes for Hakeem Jeffries

The Congressman has proven to be one of the few figures prepared to challenge the Squad and its Marxist allies. The Democrats are lucky to have him.

AP/J. Scott Applewhite, file
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries at the Capitol on November 17, 2022. AP/J. Scott Applewhite, file

The announcement by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries that he is seeking the Minority Leader position in 118th U.S. House is encouraging news. He has not only proven himself a straightforward and magnetic leader, but has also tacked toward the centrist tradition of the Democratic Party. He has proven to be one of the few figures prepared to challenge the Squad and its Marxist allies. The Democrats are lucky to have him. 

If that kind of praise for a Democrat seems out of place in an editorial column of The New York Sun, that is part of the point. We are kiloparsecs to the right of Mr. Jeffries. We have, though, been a long-time admirer of the Brooklyn Democrat. Would there were more like him in what’s left of the party of Bill Clinton and Harry Truman. Our hope is that Mr. Jeffries can succeed as a moderating force within the rising generation. 

Certainly the Democratic leadership is in need of change and of someone like him. The retirement of Speaker Pelosi, a formidable figure no doubt, offers the first chance in two decades to start this transition. Mr. Jeffries has worked alongside colleagues to pass legislation, advocate for his constituents, and bring federal dollars home to New York. He has served the Eighth Congressional District with grace and intelligence for nearly a decade. 

Mr. Jeffries is an attorney, a former New York state assemblyman, Congressman, and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. He has proven himself as a legislator, negotiator, and communicator under difficult circumstances. His relationships with members of both parties would help him lead his more than 210-member caucus. It’s not hard to think of others who have credentials, but few with the grit and gumption of Mr. Jeffries.

One of the things that makes Mr. Jeffries special, as our Matthew Rice reports nearby, is his willingness to confront Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her camarilla. She’d entered the House by defeating Congressman Joseph Crowley, a centrist Democrat; Mr. Jeffries was promptly elected to succeed Mr. Crowley as chairman of the Democratic Caucus. So Mr. Jeffries and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez were fated to clash from the start, partly because he’s so pro-Israel.

Tensions got bad enough, Politico reported, that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez deemed Mr. Jeffries as the “highest priority” target in the primaries. She was worried about his alleged corporate funding and support for charter schools. The same article reported that during his race for caucus chairman, Mr. Jeffries, in private conversations, derided Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Coast progressive, ran against Mr. Jeffries for caucus chairman, but lost.

Things came to a head, Mr. Rice reminds us, when, in the 2020 election, Republicans stunned the Democrats by gaining 14 seats, just shy of a majority. According to the Washington Post, a series of recriminations poured forth on a conference call of House Democrats. Tears flowed from one member who had lost. When the losers and the progressives fell to feuding, Mr. Rice notes, it was Mr. Jeffries “standing between them all.”

“The extreme left is obsessed with talking trash about mainstream Democrats on Twitter, when the majority of the electorate constitute mainstream Democrats at the polls,” the New York Times quoted Mr. Jeffries as lamenting last year. In other words, he’s a hard-headed, common-sense type of Democrat — a faction that is sorely missed in today’s party. The party will be better positioned in the long run if Mr. Jeffries is in the van.

The New York Sun

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