With so much attention on the catastrophe that is the Republican primary season, there has not been nearly enough discussion of the calamity that has befallen the Democrats.
Will someone please explain how it is possible that the two choices for the Democratic nomination in 2016 were born in 1941 and 1947? That’s right, the bright new faces of the Democratic party could both collect social security checks.
Now, before you accuse Politics in Pink of ageism- let’s be clear. Experience is valuable and important, providing institutional memory and the insights gained from past successes and failures. But government must also be renewed with new ideas and vision. It is worth noting that only one of the stellar candidates for the Democratic nomination is younger than President Obama, and actually only by a year. That’s right. Bernie Sanders is 74. Jim Webb is 70. Hillary Clinton is 68. Lincoln Chafee (yes, he ran) is 63 and the sadly forgettable Martin O’Malley is 53.
Why does that matter? Because they are all part of the baby boomer generation (actually Sanders pre-dates the baby boomers and is a member of the Silent generation— hmm then why does he yell so much???). The generation that was shaped by the conflicts of the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, Vietnam and Watergate still dominates American politics.
You might argue that it’s just that these are the most qualified candidates out there. But the real problem is that they are the only candidates out there. Where are the Democrats from Gen X? In the Democratic Party there are only 3 Gen X Governors and only 5 Gen X Senators. That’s a pretty small pool. And aside from Cory Booker and Kirstin Gillibrand, none of them have national reputations.
It is striking that the party that claims to represent the future of America (in terms of ethnicity, age and gender) is so old, white and predominantly male.
And this is important because although our government looks like the mailing list of the AARP, Millennials have overtaken the Baby Boomers as the largest generation. Millennials may be too young (at ages 19-35 in 2016) to have climbed the ranks of power in government, but surely Gen X’ers (ages 36-51) should have a little more political power.
Where are the Gen X’ers? As a generation, we seem to have turned our back on government. Raised by baby boomers disillusioned with government after Vietnam and Watergate, we pursued the common good in non-profits and NGO’s. In college, we may have interned at the White House and in Congress, but we did not stay on and run for office. We, as Gen X Democrats may have rejected the economic philosophy of the Republican Party, but we embraced its distrust of government and politicians. We decided we could get more done outside the halls of government, thereby leaving the governing to our parents’ generation and young conservatives inspired by the Reagan Revolution.
So to Millennials, on behalf of Gen X, I’m sorry. Our abandonment of the political sphere has left you to choose between two candidates who are still trying to figure out how “the Facebook” works. Hopefully, you can learn from our mistakes. To those of you feeling the Bern and swiping your woman’s card for Hillary, hopefully you will be inspired not only to vote, but to run for office. The future of the Democratic Party (and the liberal/progressive agenda if you dislike party labels) depends on your involvement not just in political causes, but actual government.