Tim Ryan is gambling that his colleagues in Congress will agree that it’s time for change.
The Mahoning Valley Democrat, whose district includes part of Portage County, is challenging Nancy Pelosi in her bid to remain minority leader of the House of Representatives. Pelosi has held that job since 2002, when Ryan first was elected to Congress; during that time she also served as Speaker of the House, the first woman to hold that position.
Pelosi claims she has the support of two-thirds of the House Democratic minority. Whether that’s true or not, there’s no question that she’s a formidable obstacle in Ryan’s path, and that the challenge he is mounting against his onetime patron isn’t without risks.
Ryan isn’t one to tilt at windmills, though. Our guess is that he has done his own political head count and believes Pelosi is vulnerable. His argument — and it’s a good one, we think — is that Democats lost the White House because they lost their political way. The party is out of step with many of its core supporters, he says, namely the working class base that helped hand Trump the Oval Office. The loss of the Democratic “firewall” in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and, to an extent, Ohio — underscores that. Losing them to Trump ought to be a wake-up call.
Ryan argues that it’s time for Democrats in Congress to choose a leader who speaks the language of those who backed Trump based on economic issues. As a Democrat who easily won re-election to his House seat in a district that, along with most of Ohio, backed Trump, Ryan believes he can bring about the change needed to regain a competitive edge. The party has been talking about the same issues for years without taking action, he contends.
The challenge to Pelosi reflects divisions within the Democratic Party. She’s a West Coast liberal, whose base of power is one of the bluest of the “blue” states. Ryan is a Democrat in a state in which every elected statewide office is held by Republicans, a state where Democrats hold a mere handful of congressional seats. Another factor in the contest — largely unspoken — is that it’s a generational one; Pelosi is 76 years old; Ryan is 43.
Tim Ryan has been an effective and responsive representative of our interests in Congress. He is no stranger to Portage County and he has demonstrated his ability to team up with his Republican counterparts when a bipartisan approach will yield positive results for his district. Along with the late Rep. Steve LaTourette, a Republican, he spearheaded the $20 million federal grant that brought the PARTA parking complex to downtown Kent; without it, the revitalization of the business district wouldn’t have been possible.
We’ve seen his leadership efforts as well as his ability to cross the political aisle without compromising on his principles. He would bring those attributes — as well as relative youth and a fresh approach — to serving as his party’s leader in Congress. We’ll know on Nov. 30 when House Democrats choose their leadership whether they agree that it’s time for a change.