My mother was born in 1921. Since then, seven men have been elected President of the United States as Democrats. Their median age at the time of their first election was 50. In my lifetime, which began in 1960, there have been five Democratic Presidents. Their median age at the time of their first election was 47. Just look at the ages of the following political icons at the time of their first Presidential victory: JFK – 43, Bill Clinton – 46, Barack Obama -- 47, FDR – 50. Apparently, when it comes to electing Democrats, America likes ‘em young.
Now, take a look at the Democratic leadership today. In the House of Representatives, you have Nancy Pelosi (who will be 80 by the time of the 2020 election) and Steny Hoyer (who will be 81). In the Senate, Chuck Schumer (who will be 70) and Dick Durbin (who will be 75). In terms of the de facto leaders of the Party, you have Bernie Sanders (who will be 79), Joe Biden (who will be 77, Hillary Clinton (who will be 73), and Elizabeth Warren (who will be a mere 71). Recently, Dianne Feinstein decided that she should seek re-election for her job as Senior Senator from the nation’s largest state. She will be 87 by the time of the 2020 election. That would make her old even in comparison to the other prominent Democratic politicians. It would appear that if you want to lead this party, you should be in your 70s, not your 80s.
Sobering stuff if, like me, you are a Democrat. But I gather from the pundits on TV that many of the other members of my Party aren’t nearly so sobered. They’re getting drunk with joy from all the reported Republican in-fighting that’s been going on lately, especially the statements against the current President by Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. My fellow Democrats ignore the fact that Messrs. Flake and Corker consistently vote with the Administration on all major issues of the day, including those awful health care bills, and that when they do leave the Senate they will quite likely be replaced in their Republican-leaning states by other Republicans. My fellow Democrats similarly ignore the fact that their Party controls only 15 Governor’s mansions, even fewer state houses, and are dominated in all branches of the federal government. And yet, despite those stubborn facts, my fellow Democrats not only expect to excel in the mid-terms of 2018 but also count on regaining the White House in 2020, just as they counted on keeping it in 2016.
Why all this optimism? Or perhaps the better question is, why all this complacency?
From where I’m sitting, this is a rudderless, leaderless Party which is currently kept together entirely by the ability to oppose the current Administration. Yes, the “just say no” approach to serving in the minority worked for the GOP when Obama was President and its use by the Dems may indeed preclude many a Republican initiative advanced by Trump and Pence. But it is not, by itself, an election strategy, as evidenced by the fact that the mainstream Republican candidates who ran in 2016 got trounced by a political outsider who did stand FOR something (call it the “America First” strategy) and enunciated his views in extremely plain-spoken terms.
Do the Democrats have a leader who is going to stand FOR something and who will make that case in extremely plain-spoken terms? And if so, will he or she seem youthful, vibrant and relateable enough to appeal to those swing districts that elected a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama?
Until those questions can be answered in the affirmative, the Democrats might want to think twice before donning their party hats every time the GOP stubs its toe. From where I’m sitting, the Republicans aren’t the only ones who have problems these days. They’re just the only ones who have power.