Aging Dems Eye Dim Political Future

John Moore/Getty Images/AFP
John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

The future belongs to the young, if the cliché is true. But perhaps it’s time to put a 21st Century spin on that. The future belongs to those who show up.

And, at least in the Democratic party, it’s the old and not the young who are doing so.

That starts at the top. Joel Pollak wrote recently in these pages:

As RealClearPolitics noted in a recent infographic, Hillary Clinton is older than the entire Republican field. Furthermore, with one exception (Martin O’Malley), every potential Democratic presidential candidate is older than every single GOP contender. The oldest Republican (potentially) in the race is former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is only in his mid-60s. If Democrats are hoping to bring millennials back to the polls, they have to find some way to inject youth into the race.

But Democrats put the “demo” in “demographic problems” all the way down the ticket.

At National Journal, Jon Kraushaar notes that: “Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak, Indiana’s Baron Hill, and Ohio’s Ted Strickland all ran underwhelming campaigns in losing office in 2010—and are looking to return to politics six years later.” Dems are also hoping Kay Hagen, defeated in 2014, can mount a return to the Senate next year.

“Senate Democrats are relying on these repeat candidates for the exact same reason that Democrats are comfortable with anointing Hillary Clinton for their presidential nomination: There aren’t any better alternatives,” Kraushaar writes.

There aren’t many answers on the horizon.

“The way we rebuild is really by having a deep investment in our local city council races and state races, by really starting to recruit and pipeline strong local candidates,” Arizona Rep.-elect Ruben Gallego told Politico after his party was wiped out last fall. “That’s where your good congressional candidates in the future are going to come from.”

But as party leaders in purple states such as Wisconsin and Ohio are learning, there aren’t many young Democrats stepping up to run.

The GOP now controls more than two-thirds of state legislatures. There are 31 Republican governors and just 18 Democrats. There’s a Republican governor in deep blue Maryland (he did a nice job responding to the Baltimore violence) and another trying to clean up the pension mess made by Democrats in Illinois.

If younger people seem uninspired by the Democratic party, maybe that’s because the party is itself uninspiring.

Decades ago, a (seemingly) vibrant John F. Kennedy won election promising the country would go to the moon.

Today’s Democratic president and vice president warn about the supposed danger of global warming. Even if that really was “a thing,” as the kids say, it’s a far-distant threat to a generation that’s struggling to find a job or pay off a student loan. Small wonder they’re uninspired.

Political analyst Daniel McGraw recently warned that the Republican party is at risk, because its older voters are dying off. But that gets things backward. The party is inspiring the younger demographic to seek office.

GOP senators now include Tom Cotton (37), Cory Gardner (40) and Joni Ernst (44). They join a body that already includes Ted Cruz (44), Mike Lee (43) and Marco Rubio (43). The conservative future is bright. As for the political left: it’s fallen, has no ideas, and no visible future.