‘You don’t have to die in your seat’: Democrats stress over aging members

“The older generation doesn’t want to pass the baton on. You don’t have to die in your seat. Pass the baton on, ”said Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones, a 37-year-old Democrat who lives in Hastings County.

“I want to make sure that I don’t represent in age discrimination, but we have a banking problem,” he said. “We have so many good young elected officials, but they’re on the bench.”

DeSantis’ change of planning led to Howl of protest in the predominantly black district, because its residents will be able to do without elected representatives for so long. But privately, there is a growing realization among Florida Democrats that Hastings’ refusal to leave office helped make the outcome possible.

Both parties have their share of senior members (Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley is considering running again next year for a term that ends when he turns 93). But the Democrats have struggled for some time with a noticeable generation gap in their ranks – President Joe Biden and the leading Democratic congressional leaders are all well over 70 years old. Ten of the 12 House members over 80 are Democrats.

The issue has become more urgent given the party’s weak influence in Congress. Losing just one Democrat would change the balance of power in the Senate, which has tightened the scrutiny of its oldest member, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein current questions about their fitness for office. She turned 88 on Tuesday. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, now 81 and running for re-election for his ninth term, had a brief hospital anxiety in January that alerted activists.

“It was one of the few wake-up calls: holy s — we’re a stroke or car wreck or a me too scandal because we don’t have a Senate majority,” said Julian Brave to NoiseCat, vice president of politics and strategy for the liberal think tank Data for Progress . “It’s the thinnest majority you can have.”

The Democrats have a slightly larger lead in the House of Representatives, but that advantage has been diminished in recent months by the Hastings ‘death and other departures.

This has led to growing frustration with the old guard, but also a sense of fear that the party is just a heartbeat away from losing control of at least one chamber of Congress.

Progressive activists like NoiseCat are increasingly concerned that issues important to Generation Z and Millennial voters – like climate change, franchise, and criminal law reform – have stalled in the narrow-minded Senate, where lack of action is squeezing voter turnout for the next year and control of one or both houses of Congress.

“There is a generation of young progressives who are politically driven and a big question facing the Democratic Party in relation to its ability to channel that energy is whether it can reach issues that are important to young people”, said NoiseCat.

Concerns about the composition of the US Supreme Court – where the death of 87-year-old Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September enabled President Donald Trump to replace her with Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 49 – also color the debate.

Judge Stephen Breyer, 82, one of the three Liberal Supreme Court justices, is facing an organized effort to pressure him to retire and make room for a replacement.

Brian Fallon, a senior Democratic activist and advocacy group executive Demand Justice, said Breyer’s arguments for staying in court are similar to those of Ginsburg and senior politicians like Leahy, who suggest that they are still doing a good job and will remain the best choice for their positions.

“The great divide in the Democratic Party is as ideological as it is generational,” Fallon said, adding that it is not just about politics.

“It applies to the way politics is run, beyond taxes and crime and the war on drugs,” he said. “There is no longer any patience for the idea that Republicans will negotiate in good faith.”

MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 31-year-old progressive who won her New York seat in 2018 by defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent, reminded her Twitter followers earlier this month that 77-year-old Democratic Senator Ted. Kennedy had died in 2009 and prevented President Barack Obama’s agenda.

“During the Obama administration, people thought we had a 60-dem majority for a while. It took 4 months, ”she tweeted. “Dems are wasting valuable time and affecting negotiations with the GOP, which won’t even vote for a January 6th commission. [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s plan is to leave the clock. It’s a hustle and bustle. We have to move now. “

Waleed Shahid, a Democratic strategist and spokesperson for Justice Democrats group, said he wanted the 78-year-old president, 70-year-old Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, 70, and House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, 81, to do so Recognizing time is ticking for everyone.

“I don’t naturally have a problem with a politician’s age,” said Shahid. “The problem is that the Democratic Party’s tight control over the federal government could be turned on its head at any time by illness or death. That fact should give Biden, Schumer and Pelosi much more urgency to get a broad agenda through Congress as soon as possible.

However, that would require the elimination of the filibuster, and Senators like Feinstein are cool about the idea. In 2018, then-Senator Kevin de León, 54, unsuccessfully challenged her from the left in California, saying it was time for a change. But the powerful senator still managed to win a fifth term.

“There will always be an expiration date for the seniority value,” de León, now a member of the Los Angeles City Council, told POLITICO. “Instead of holding power hostage until our very last days, let us use every ounce of it to help the next generation pave the way for strong leadership both within our party and in the halls of power.”

In Florida, Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, 42, had the same idea when she unsuccessfully challenged Hastings in 2018 and 2020.

Cherfilus-McCormick said she respected Hastings, a popular figure in the black community who was first elected to Congress in 1992. But she challenged him because she said he was not delivering for the district and “we cannot sacrifice the community based on” the fact that someone is an icon. “

After Hastings’ death, Cherfilus-McCormick is now running in a crowded primary to succeed him – a stark contrast to her two previous solo offers against Hastings.

“They jump in because they think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, because they assume you will stay there until you come around. It’s something that we have to grapple with and confront, ”she said. “As a party, we have to deal with taking succession planning seriously.”

Leave a Comment