Why Are the Democrats So Old and Tired?

2016 field so far looks like an AARP convention, minus the Viagra



t the Washington Examiner, the shrewd political columnist Byron York points out that the Democratic field for the 2016 presidential race is more than a little gray around the gills:

There are five Democrats who have either declared or are thinking about running for president. Three — Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders, and Jim Webb — will be over 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2017. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be nine months short of 70. Only Martin O'Malley, who will turn 54 a couple of days before the 2017 swearing-in, has not reached retirement age already.

What explains this last wheeze of the Boomers? York lets an anonymouse do the talking:

"It's the snuffing out of young talent by the strength and size and sheer velocity of the inevitable nominee," says a well-connected Democratic strategist. "The Clintons took all the air out of the collective Democratic room. There are a lot of people who would be running who are much younger, but they've got their future in front of them, and they don't want the Clintons to ruin it, in this campaign or after this campaign. So they're waiting for a moment when there is enough oxygen to run."

"If Hillary Clinton weren't running, we'd have a field that looks like the Republican field — young and vibrant and diverse."

That first paragraph rings true (it certaintly seems hazardous to a Democrat's future to stand in the way of the Clinton juggernaut), but the second sounds like wishful thinking. One key reason why there aren't any attractive young Democratic candidates running is that there aren't many attractive young Democrats to choose from.

Don't believe me? Consider the ballyhooed young talent the party trotted out at the 2012 Democratic National Convention: Laughably dishonest campaign hack Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-Florida). Failed ex-Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Banal San Antonio mayor-turned Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, whose keynote speech at the convention contained such calorie-free bromides as "We have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow."

Such goo-goo '70s-style economic liberalism (with its policy repudiation of 1990s-style Bill Clinton Third Way economics) is what sells within the party establishment, even if the American public has been stubbornly resistant to any salesman not named Barack Obama. (Consider how much of the Democratic talent pool has simply been run out of Congress and various statehouses in 2010 and 2014.) Meanwhile, what gets hearts racing among the progressive base is not the occasional libertarianism of unorthodox young'uns like Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), but rather the explicit class warfare of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and failed Chicago mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia.

If there was to be a Tea Party-style wave of contested Democratic primaries (and there won't be any time soon), it would likely not be on the issues of drug policy or surveillance (alas!), but rather income inequality, Robin Hood taxes, and jacking up the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Progressives who think those are winning national issues may want to reflect that the only likely 2016 candidate to fully embrace them will be a geriatric socialist from Vermont.

So the base is trying desperately to foist the Blue State model onto recalcitrant Red State America; the party establishment is coughing up deeply unlovable dynastic schemers like Hillary Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and meanwhile the Clinton machine is neutralizing potential challengers by God knows what means. I know it's fashionable among some to bemoan the "clown show" of the 2016 Republican presidential field, but at least there's an actual contest there, and a detectable pulse.