The footprints are big and deep. Completing them takes time, strength, skill. For 20 years, Nancy Pelosi, 82, was the leader of the Democrats in the US House of Representatives. She served as Speaker of the First Chamber of Congress for four terms, from 2007 to 2011 and since 2019. Before that and in between, while the Democrats were in the minority, Pelosi served as their faction leader, Minority Leader.
Hakeem Jeffries, 30 years younger than Pelosi, is now the new minority leader. The Democratic faction elected the New York MP to its leadership by acclamation on Wednesday. There was no opposing candidate. In the midterm elections three weeks ago, the Democrats lost their majority in the House, narrower than expected, but still.
When Congress is constituted on January 3, the Democrats will be in the minority faction. But just as Pelosi made history—the first woman to lead the House of Representatives—so will Jeffries: he is the first black party leader in Congress.
Jeffries first moved to Congress ten years ago. Since then, Pelosi has been building up her party friend. He has been a member of the democratic parliamentary group leadership for four years and has since been considered Pelosi's foster son. The expectations of Jeffries couldn't be higher. He has to keep his faction together, which, given their political breadth, requires sensitivity. He also has to stand up to the Republicans. In the future, they will not only provide the Speaker of the House, but also determine the agenda and committee work. Republicans want to investigate the former business practices of the President's son, Hunter Biden.
Already there are calls for impeachment proceedings against Biden and his Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Californian Kevin McCarthy, Republican favorite for speaker, wants to block and water down Joe Biden's agenda as much as possible.
Jeffries' job is to prevent the worst - in the spirit of the Democrats. Pelosi was adept at making life difficult for then-President Donald Trump, showing him the power of Congress. In the future, this will take place under the opposite sign. Pelosi, who built her political career on skill and success as a fundraiser, is a shrewd and experienced powerbroker. Trump felt this, defended himself almost childishly by trying to mock Pelosi as "Crazy Nancy". Jeffries will probably take a long time to fill in Pelosi's footprints.
In the unsuccessful impeachment trial against Trump, Jeffries was one of the visible leaders of the Democrats. Jeffries parried the rhetorical question from Trump's lawyer as to why they were gathered here: "We are here, sir, because President Trump corruptly abused his power and then tried to cover it up." He ended his statement with one Quote from rapper Biggie Smalls: "And if you don't know, now you know". So: "And if you don't know, then you know now."
Jeffries is considered calm, hardworking, disciplined. He set up a donation initiative that benefits those Democrats who are internally challenged by left-wing party friends. He is therefore met with distrust from the progressives, i.e. the left wing of the Democrats. Some see him as a man who focuses too much on corporate interests and less on climate change. The young left-wing icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is rather skeptical about the rise of her fellow New Yorker – and she is not alone.
The biographical difference between Jeffries and Pelosi could hardly be greater: Pelosi comes from a politically influenced family, her father was the mayor of Baltimore. Her family has accumulated considerable wealth since she was first elected to Congress in 1987. Her husband, Paul, bought shares while the companies in question benefited from government contracts.
Jeffries' ancestors, on the other hand, were enslaved people who had come to the United States from the Cape Verde Islands. He grew up in modest circumstances in Brooklyn and attended a public school. His father was a social worker, working in drug counseling, among other things. Jeffries still lives in what was once an Afro-American neighborhood in Brooklyn that has long been gentrified. After studying politics and law, partly at a state university, and earning his doctorate (law), Jeffries initially worked as a lawyer. His wife works for a union and the couple has two children.
As is usual in the United States, Jeffries, as a professional politician, always has to raise funds for the election campaign. In the 2021/22 period, he did well. According to the Opensecrets platform, Jeffries received donations equivalent to around five million euros - at least a quarter of what the top fundraiser Pelosi was able to book.