Nov 15, 2017

The Democrats' old-people problem

From left to right: Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer. Photos: AP

Democrats are rethinking their future — but doing it with the leadership of old men and women deeply rooted in the past. The top three House Democrats in leadership are all nearly 80 years old.

By the numbers: The average age of Democrats serving under them is 61. Three of the most talked-about 2020 contenders are Sen. Bernie Sanders, 76; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 68; and former Vice President Joe Biden, 74.

Why it matters: Older Democratic leaders are unwilling to give up their seats, even as younger Democrats call for "a new generation of leaders," as top House Democrat Linda Sanchez said when she asked for Nancy Pelosi to step down. And former DNC Chair Howard Dean told MSNBC: "Our leadership is old and creaky, including me."

The elderly trend among Democrats:

  • A recent CNN poll found that five of the six people voters view as the leaders of the Dem Party average 71 years old (Sanders, Clinton, Schumer, Warren, Biden).
  • Four Democratic Reps. are more than twice the average age of their constituents: Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), 88; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), 81; Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.), 76; Rep. Jose Serrano (N.Y.), 74.
  • A few senators running for re-election will be in their 80s after another six years in office: Feinstein, Sanders, and Sen. Bill Nelson, 75.

A handful of younger Dems have considered running for president in 2020, like Mayors Eric Garcetti, 46, and Mitch Landrieu, 57. Rep. Tim Ryan, 44, hasn't ruled out running and he challenged Pelosi for her leadership post last year. And Californians like Sen. Kamala Harris, 53, and billionaire Tom Steyer, 60, are speculated to run against Trump in 2020.

What they're saying, per Tara McGowan, co-founder of the digital-first political organization ACRONYM, which helps elect progressive Democrats: "When we combine running candidates who look more like our voters with organizations run by people who understand the value in reaching voters where they spend their time online, we can drive record turnout — especially among young people."

Go deeper: Meet the new generation of Democrats that swept the 2017 special elections, and go inside the progressive push starting in California.

Go deeper

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The scene near the 5th police precinct during a demonstration calling for justice for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Saturday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

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The state of play: Hundreds have already been arrested as tensions continue to rise between protesters and local governments. Protesters are setting police cars on fire as freeways remain blocked and windows are shattered, per the Washington Post. Law enforcement officials are using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds and send protesters home.

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Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

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The big picture: Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody is the latest reminder of the disparities between black and white communities in the U.S. and comes as African Americans grapple with higher death rates from the coronavirus and higher unemployment from trying to stem its spread.

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In photos: Protesters and police clash nationwide over George Floyd

A firework explodes behind a line of police officers next to the Colorado State Capitol during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Denver on May 30. Photo : Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray as the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd continued nationwide into early Sunday.

The big picture: Police responded over the weekend with force, in cities ranging from Salt Lake City to Atlanta to Des Moines, Houston to Detroit, Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., Denver and Louisville. Large crowds gathered in Minneapolis on Saturday for the fifth day in a row.