David A. Graham: The overhyped feud between Nancy Pelosi and AOC
Progressive America is overdue for a generational replacement. The unexpected boomlets behind Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg and the Twitter sensation who is now Chakrabarti’s boss reflect an unsated hunger for Millennial politicians. When Pelosi sniped that a “glass of water” could have won Ocasio-Cortez’s district, her dismissive tone revealed how little she understood the dynamics of the Queens representative’s appeal.
Partially, this is because the United States of politicians like Trump, 73; Joe Biden, 76; Bernie, 77; and Pelosi, 79, is starting to feel like a gerontocracy. And this is striking compared with Europe, where Emmanuel Macron is only 41, Boris Johnson is 55, and Matteo Salvini and Pedro Sánchez are 46 and 47, respectively.
This Congress is among the oldest in history. The average member is 58 in the House and 62 in the Senate, with party leaders nearly a decade older. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is 80. This aging cohort, on too many occasions, has shown itself not fit for purpose on 21st-century issues.
The cringeworthy performance of 44 senators last April trying to hold Mark Zuckerberg, 34, to account was what convinced me we need more Chakrabartis on the Hill—regardless of party—not fewer of them. Senator Orrin Hatch, then 84, used his time to ask the Facebook CEO how he sustained a “free” business model. (“Senator, we run ads,” Zuckerberg replied.)
The party establishment should not be offering jobs for life and a career-protection service. Primary challenges are not new. Nor are the numbers here an unprecedented takeover: The Justice Democrats are currently endorsing just five challengers, and only seven of them are incumbents in the House.
In fact, it was a young challenger who’s responsible for the Democratic Party’s greatest recent electoral success. Barack Obama’s failed challenge to Bobby Rush in the 2000 congressional primary shouldn’t have seen him blackballed. He was 47 when elected president, and his youth played a major role in his candidacy, which saw a Democrat elected between John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, who were both in their 60s when they were the party’s nominees.
But if the strategy isn’t novel, what about the policies the Justice Democrats are advancing?
They are less red than meets the eye. In Europe and across the rest of the Anglophone world, virtually no one would see Medicare for All as radicalism. Not only do British Conservatives and German Christian Democrats support public health care, but the Green New Deal vision of state-led investment reminds me of the politics of my mid-century conservative heroes, including Harold Macmillan and Charles de Gaulle. And, further back, even Alexander Hamilton.
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