Thursday, November 11, 2010

Empowering Septuagenarians

There are a lot of reasons why the first two years of the Obama administration have not gone well, but I think one of the most important reasons is that Obama has turned out to be a frontman for a bunch of really old politicians. It's one thing for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to declare themselves progressives, but (not to put too fine a point on it), they seem old and grasping.

And they don't want to go away, either, which is beginning to frustrate younger Democrats:

A younger generation of Democrats is chafing at being asked to stand aside and let a triumvirate of elders keep their leadership positions in the wake of a catastrophic midterm election result.

Barring an unexpected shake-up, House Democrats next year will be led by a combination of Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.)
— lawmakers who are 70 or older and have served in Congress for decades.

There's a certain irony in this, since many people who lead the Democratic Party had their formative years in the 1960s, when youthful idealism drove people into politics, or so the narrative goes. I've long thought that narrative was crap, but we'll set that aside. The larger problem is this: the 60s are a long time ago. The New Frontier is now 50 years back in the rear view. In 1960, was anyone longing for the glory days of William Howard Taft? And the younger Democrats aren't getting much traction:

Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (Colo.), among others, were all seen as top contenders to move up but have found themselves in limbo as Pelosi locks down the minority-leader post and Hoyer and Clyburn vie for whip. Becerra is trying to hold on to the vice chairmanship of the caucus, while Van Hollen, the campaign chief appointed by Pelosi as assistant to the Speaker, is for now on the outside looking in. He is now seeking the top Democratic position on the House Budget Committee.

None of those lawmakers has complained publicly about being shut out, but other Democrats have warned that the party risks ignoring a message from voters if they keep the same leaders in place.

“We can’t let them sit on the bench for too much longer,” one Democratic aide said, referring to the party’s younger lawmakers. “There’s a push to add in some new ideas and new faces and new energy.”

While I'm skeptical that this younger generation of Democrats will bring new ideas to the table, there's little doubt that the continuing presence of Nancy Pelosi won't help branding efforts for the Democrats.

Of course, that's the problem the Democrats face. They aren't coming up with new ideas. They spent the last two years ramming through a governmental takover of health care, an item from Harry Truman's wish list. Their party can't get past Keynes and John Rawls.

The Republican Party has troubles of its own, but at least some of its younger members are getting places at the table. Who is the Democratic Party equivalent of Paul Ryan? It would behoove the Democrats to find one.


Crystal Kelley said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the points you make in your post, points I rarely see in print. I've felt for years that the people screaming the loudest against, for example, the war, were mostly aging hippies longing for their glory days. It still holds true. While so many of them grew up believing the silly notion that their protests ended the Vietnam war, they remain as delusional today, as you point out. Sadly, they trained the new generation of the deluded, but at least the younger generation might have ingested fewer hits of LSD.

Night Writer said...

The greatest gift the Democrats can give the Republican party right now is to keep this aging triumvirate in power; they've become a brand unto themselves that few are buying.

The Pepsi Generation has become the Dyspeptic Generation. In the marketplace, well-establisihed products such as Pepsi knows that you have to refresh your brand regularly even if the product stays the same. In sports, a team will play the proven veterans as long as it can contend but once it falls out of contention or has a losing season they cut the vets loose and let the youngsters get some seasoning.

Gino said...

this reminds me of something that was said 20yrs ago.

back during the tianenmen square protests, and ensuing crackdown, the leaders of china's govt met to solve the problems of discontent.

it was described by observers as: the 80 yr olds called a meeting of the 70 yr olds to decide what 60 yr olds needed to retire.

Swiftee said...

Aren't lefty women born with grey hair?