Democrats Are Missing a Generation of Leaders

Writer notes lack of big names in their 40s and 50s
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2015 1:58 PM CST
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential debate in October.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

(Newser) – The Democratic contest seems to have come down to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, two candidates with an average age of 71. The Republicans, meanwhile, have three candidates in their 40s. The contrast has Mark Schmitt lamenting a "lost generation of Democrats" in the New York Times. Sure, there are exceptions—Martin O'Malley and, of course, President Obama—but by and large the Democratic party is devoid of national leaders in their 40s and 50s. "Step into any progressive organization in Washington or the states, and you’ll see the same phenomenon: leadership by baby boomers, an intense and passionate group of 20- and 30-somethings, and nobody else," writes Schmitt. "The middle generation is largely missing." So what's going on? It helps to recall when this group—and Schmitt himself is a member—came of age.

The boomers grew up in tumultuous times, but "the formative experiences of older Generation Xers were in the quiescent Reagan years, when civic life offered neither the sense of affirmative mission of the civil rights era nor the intense protests and passions of the late 1960s," writes Schmitt. What's more, the Democratic party as a whole around this time was not "ideologically coherent" and thus not much of a focal point for the young. In time, younger Democrats now in their 20s and 30s will take leadership roles in national politics. "But the missing middle-aged Democrats remind us that the formative assumptions of each generation can cast a long shadow on the future." Click for the full column. (Read more Democrats stories.)

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