Hakeem Jeffries, Who Is Vying For The Democratic Party’s Leadership, Represents A Generational Shift
The lawmaker served in the House for ten years. Believes she would be a very different speaker than Nancy Pelosi.
The legal representative for President Donald J. Trump had just asked, “Why are we here?” On the Senate floor during the 2020 impeachment trial. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, made a case for convicting and impeaching Mr. Trump.
Mr. Jeffries babbled, like a prosecutor: “We are here, sir, because President Trump abused his power corruptly and then tried to hide it. And we’re here, sir, to uphold the law. The facts, and the Constitution while guiding us and tell the American people the truth.
The 52-year-old Mr. Jeffries concluded his somber speech by quoting fellow Brooklynite and rapper. “And if you don’t know, now you know,” said Biggie Smalls.
It’s possible that 82-year-old Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has led the divisive House Democratic Caucus for the past 20 years and announced her resignation from the position on Thursday, didn’t fully grasp the significance of the allusion. The incident, two years ago, is a prime example of the generational and stylistic change currently occurring in the top tiers of the party’s House ranks.
Who else could quote Biggie Smalls as an impeachment manager? Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from New York, said.
Mr. Jeffries, the first Black man to lead the Democratic Party in either chamber of Congress, formally announced his candidacy for the position on Friday. His coworkers generally think he will appoint because he is currently the only applicant for the job. He and Ms. Pelosi are very dissimilar people.
She was raised in a political family in Baltimore and later achieved fame as an affluent homemaker in San Francisco, personifying the liberal social politics of her new city. Her parents are a congressman and a former mayor. She has been an accomplished lawmaker in Congress for two decades, holding an iron grip on her caucus and helping to pass significant Democratic policy initiatives—often while wearing stilettos.
Mr. Jeffries is the descendant of a lowly social worker who worked his way up to become a successful lawyer and a counselor for substance abuse. He continues to live in the heart of Black Brooklyn and frequently pairs his suits with sneakers. A steep learning curve lies ahead, given his legislative record, which is relatively sparse aside from the bipartisan federal sentencing reform.
The two lawmakers share a pragmatic inclination and an instinct for areas where political compromise is possible.
He is very deliberate and doesn’t respond to questions or problems immediately. Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat from Queens and a former member of Mr. Jeffries’ staff in Albany and Washington, said of him: He will pay attention, take it all in, and typically return with an answer that most people would not have considered.
His congressional colleagues think of Mr. Jeffries as a composed, self-controlled speaker who frequently speaks without notes. He organizes the annual “Hip-Hop on the Hill” celebration and always brings cheesecakes from Junior’s, a famous Brooklyn bakery. His efforts to address racial injustice have included gentrification control and criminal justice system reform. He defends core liberal principles like access to abortion and Medicare for All.
Despite having an incredibly pragmatic personality, he is uncomfortable with the active left wing of the party, whose strategy he has argued is unrealistic and self-defeating. He established Team Blue, a fundraising initiative that has aided Democrats facing left-leaning primary challenges, along with moderate Democrat Josh Gottheimer, a representative from New Jersey.
On the other hand, many progressives hold a very unfavorable view of him. They may even be hostile toward him, alleging that he is overly focused on corporate interests and cautious about combating climate change. If Mr. Jeffries were to assume control, dealing with their skepticism might be one of his most significant and complex challenges.
If he’s going to perform his duties and keep the Democratic caucus together in this incredibly close-knit Congress, he needs the left’s support. According to Liat Olenick, a campaigner with Climate Families N.Y.C. and the Brooklyn chapter of Indivisible, he must stop provoking progressive leaders to achieve this.
Even as Democrats rushed to support Mr. Jeffries’s candidacy, this week before Mr. Jeffries’ announcement, Progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said she was still “processing” Ms. Pelosi’s resignation decision and that “healing that needs to be done in our caucus.”
If Mr. Jeffries prevails, he will represent Democratic political power in a very different way than the nation is accustomed to. Mr. Jeffries grew up in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights. Represents a number of the most prestigious urban Black communities in the country. Including a few that the trailblazing congresswoman Shirley Chisholm previously described.
Twenty years ago, he rose to power as a political outlaw with a short fuse. Who avoided the Democratic Party’s hierarchical structure. He briefly considered running for mayor. But always preferred to work out restraint when exercising power.
Ruben Diaz Jr., a Democrat from the Bronx and one of the congressman’s closest allies. said: “He’s what we call a code switcher. He can interact with hip-hop artists. Hang out in the streets of Brooklyn or the Bronx, or go inside the Oval Office to talk to the President of the United States.
During the 1980s and 1990s, when New York City was fighting the crack cocaine epidemic. Central Brooklyn, a hub of Black activism and extraordinary cultural output, Mr. Jeffries was raised there. This was a time of crime and unrest. Mr. Jeffries was born into a Cape Verdean and enslaved family.
Before enrolling at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Where he currently serves as president of the historically Black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, Mr. Jeffries attended the city’s public schools.
He attended N.Y.U. and went on to work. As one of the few young Black attorneys in the litigation department at the prestigious firm Paul, Weiss, and later at C.B.S. In their latter role, he worked on a lawsuit. That is brought about by Justin Timberlake. Briefly exposing Janet Jackson’s breast on live television during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
He ran for office three times beginning in 2000. When he was about 30 years old, before being chosen to serve in the State Assembly. He defeated former Black Panther and City Councilman Charles Barron in the 2012 congressional primary.
A seasoned political advisor named Lupe Todd-Medina remarked: “He is definitely of the generation of primarily male outsiders. Who worked to plow their way into the Democratic Party. Once they were inside, you could see the movement of Black political power from Central Brooklyn to Harlem.
Shortly after taking office, Mr. Jeffries made criminal justice reform his top legislative priority. Later, it became a unifying theme in a minimal legislative portfolio.
Together with future New York City mayor Eric Adams. They work to pass legislation in Albany. That forbade the Police Department from maintaining a list of men. Who stopped and frisked by its officers. In Washington, he contributed to the First Step Act, a bipartisan federal sentencing reform that Mr. Trump signed. He co-authored a measure approved by the House that forbade police from using chokeholds.
The Rev. Al Sharpton recalled working with Mr. Jeffries on the case of Amadou Diallo. A 23-year-old West African immigrant kills in the Bronx by four police officers. Who fired 41 shots at him because they thought he was reaching for a gun in 1999. For thirty years, Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Sharpton are close friends.
He used to say, “I’ll help, but I’m not the guy who will go to jail. I’m the guy who will help get the legislation through,” when we were fighting police brutality.
In his way, he is an activist. However, not all activists act in the same way. He dedicated to the long-term objective of what we’re attempting, Mr. Sharpton continued.
Throughout the Trump administration, he worked closely with Jared Kushner. The President’s son-in-law passed the First Step Act. Visiting the White House for meetings despite being one of the Democrats’ most vocal critics of Mr. Trump.