Opinion: The Democratic Party Needs Young Leadership
The Democratic Party is in a bad place right now. After Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 to Donald Trump, the party was thrown into chaos with the realization that they could lose to arguably the worst major candidate in modern American history. With this realization has come more than twenty candidates running for the presidential nomination of the party in 2020. But while it might seem like things are changing, one thing has remained the same: the leaders are elderly.
In fact, it is unprecedented how old these candidates are. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, the current frontrunners in the race, are seventy-seven and seventy-six respectively. Each would be the oldest president ever elected to a first term if they won, and this is a really big deal. With age comes disconnect, from the American people and from being able to do their best work. Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just turned seventy-nine, and my home state of California just re-elected Senator Dianne Feinstein, about to turn eighty-six — and she isn’t even the oldest senator in the country!
The Democratic Party is depending on young people in order to take the presidency in 2020 and expand control of Congress. Young people are distanced from current leaders by both age and policy; most young people support marijuana legalization, which Joe Biden continues to oppose, for example. However, there is hope, with younger leaders beginning to take control of the party.
The first is the best-known: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York. At just twenty-nine, she has quickly risen to be one of the most important political voices in the country and an inspiration to women everywhere. AOC, as she is frequently referred, graduated cum laude from Boston University with a degree in international relations and economics. After working eighteen-hour shifts as a bartender and waitress to support her mother, AOC became an organizer for the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. She then took on Joe Crowley, a ten-term incumbent Democrat and won the primary by almost fifteen points. She is a very prominent voice in the House, spearheading the Green New Deal, and very often taking on the Democratic Party for its flaws.
The second young leader to watch is Representative Seth Moulton from Massachusetts, currently running for president. At forty, Moulton has accomplished a lot: three degrees from Harvard and four tours in Iraq. Moulton studied physics as an undergraduate, then enlisted and became an officer leading one of the first platoons to enter Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq, before returning to get two master’s degrees in business and public policy. Moulton also took on a prominent establishment Democrat, nine-term incumbent John F. Tierney, and won. Now he is running for president, representing that next generation of liberal leadership in Washington, having taken on Nancy Pelosi in a failed attempt to stop her from becoming Speaker of the House again. But will he be able to win the nomination? Only time will tell.
These young leaders represent the best of the future, and they are not alone. Across the country, organizations like RunForSomething are encouraging young people to run for office and help change the world. Their entrances to office bring enthusiasm, energy, and very different policies. The party has shifted toward favoring proposals like universal healthcare largely thanks to the advocacy of the youth. It is imperative upon the next generation of leaders to get active and help to make their country better.
It is clear that this shift will not happen overnight. There will be a long fight against the entrenched DNC leaders in order to bring in fresher and stronger ones. But unlike the people currently heading up the Democratic Party, these younger leaders have long lives ahead of them. When I say that the future of this country depends upon them, it is not an exaggeration. Younger leaders are the future of D.C., and it’s time that we start acting like it.