Editor’s Note: Seth Moulton, a Democrat, represents the 6th Congressional District in Massachusetts. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
On November 6, the Democratic Party came a long way toward making Congress look and think like the strong, diverse country that we hope to represent. An unprecedented number of our newly elected leaders are women. In fact, Democratic women could have almost flipped the House by themselves.
Several have served our country in the military, with more incoming veterans in the House Democratic caucus than any year since 1997. Some are members of the LGBTQ community, bringing the total number of LGBT members to double digits for the first time. Others are African-American, Latino and Native American. And many of them are first-time candidates for public office.
But there’s one thing they all have in common: The American people chose them out of a desire for real change and new leadership in Washington. And if we, as Democrats, are going to answer that call, we can’t turn around and choose the same leadership we’ve had in place since 2003. Our party is changing, our country is changing and our leadership should change, too.
Nancy Pelosi has been a historic and groundbreaking leader of our party for 30 years. She has achieved extraordinary successes, including the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But it takes nothing away from her legacy to have an open and fair-minded discussion about whether her strong record of past leadership means she should lead our party into the future. The same is true for the rest of her leadership team.
I think it’s time for change. We need a speaker of the House who will harness all of the new voices in Congress to put forth a bold, progressive vision for the country – someone who will give the great new leaders in our party a chance actually to lead.
That’s where current leadership falls short. In recent years, committee leaders have mostly been chosen based on loyalty and tenure, leading to a lack of diversity and new thinking in some of the most important positions in our government. There are 21 permanent committees in the House, but many of the ranking members have been there for years, and the vast majority are white. Only three ranking members are women. We can’t expect anything to change if we keep putting the same people in the same positions.
Newer Democratic members, fresh off the campaign trail, are the ones who are most in tune with the country, and we can’t squander their leadership by sticking them all on the back bench. If we’re going to tackle gun control, inequality, climate change and the other defining issues of our time, we’ll need their fresh ideas and different perspectives to do it.
Americans across the country have already figured this out. Just look at the women’s marches, teachers’ strikes, the students for gun control or the countless other progressive advocacy groups that have driven change over last two years. Our country and our political movements are now being led by different people with unique experiences and solutions.
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And the Democratic caucus is changing with the tide. In 2006, we had a wave election comprised of 3% people of color, 13% women and 83% white men; this month’s victory was won by 21% people of color, 68% women and 24% white men. That’s progress. Our leadership shouldn’t be any different – it should change as we do.
This debate is not about men against women, young against old or progressives against centrists. It’s about whether we’re strong enough as a party to value the leaders who got us here while empowering the new voices and the emerging leaders who can get us to where we need to go. I believe we are. A diverse coalition of my colleagues agree and so do 56% of Democrats nationwide.
Voters told us it’s time for a change. We should listen.