Finally, at least one chamber of Congress will appear much less ancient.
After leading Democrats in the House of Representatives for nearly 20 years, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California), at the age of 82, said in a speech last week that it was time for a “new generation” to lead when the new Congress meets in January.
Pelosi, who is the first woman to wield the president’s gavel, announced last Thursday that while she will remain in Congress as a representative from San Francisco, she will step back from a leadership role, particularly in the wake of the violent attack on her husband. , Paul, at their home in San Francisco in October.
Delivering remarks from the floor of the House, she said: “Now we must move boldly into the future. The time has come for a new generation.
Additionally, Pelosi’s No. 2, 83-year-old House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), said he would follow Pelosi’s lead and step down to make way for a new one. leadership- writing in a letter to Democrats that while he is proud of the work he has done, “now is the time for a new generation of leaders.” However, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (SC), 82, said Sunday that he intended to stay on as leader, but said he looked forward to helping “our new generation of Democratic leaders.”
This new generation is almost certain to to understand Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (NY), current chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (California).
Considering some of the old calls for a change in leadership of the 80-year-old trio, that’s good news for those who love our elders, but still don’t want the elders to rule us. With all due respect to Nancy Pelosi and all she’s accomplished, that’s a long time coming.
We already have an 80-year-old president. Should octogenarians control all levels of government? As New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote earlier this yearthe older politicians in charge had “no sense of urgency and crisis – no sense that our system is on the brink”.
The new Democratic leadership may not be as young as some of us would still like, but it’s a necessary decision given that we live under the oldest government in history.
Unfortunately, this generational shift, while still notable, obscures the reality that when it comes to diversifying generational representation in Congress, both chambers still have a long way to go – one chamber in particular far more than the other.
The average age of Members of the House at the start of the 117th Congress were 58.4. For US senators, it was 64.3 years. Currently, nearly a quarter of Congress is over 70 – the highest percentage ever.
Upcoming 118th Congress will welcome at least its first Gen Z member, 25 Maxwell Frost of Florida, but that result is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. Only twice has a 25-year-old been elected to Congress – Republican Madison Cawthorn in 2020 and Democrat Thomas Downey in 1974, according to The New York Times. Ideally, the House will include more and more members who are non-white, old, male and straight.
In the case of the Senate, however, the majority of members are older and white — and Mandela Barnes’ unfortunate loss in Wisconsin’s recent senatorial contest against incumbent Ron Johnson means that is unlikely to change for several years.
As of July 1, 2019, millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the largest generation of living adults in the country, according to population estimates from the Census Bureau, but Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff is the only millennial to serve in the Senate.
Ossoff, who beat David Perdue for a Georgia seat last January at age 33, is youngest Democrat elected to the Senate since 1973, when then-Sen. Joe Biden joined the legislature at the age of 30.
While I think Ossoff has served well thus far, even he can attest that despite having a wide range of real-life experiences, he comes from a privileged background typical of a US Senator . By comparison, Barnes, 35, has led a life that reflects the reality of many millennials – a generation that faces severe economic anxiety and authentic fears to be the first generation not to do better than their parents. For example, he completed his college diploma 12 years after starting school, treated offender taxes and was participating in Wisconsin’s Medicaid program when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2018.
As a millennial who deeply understands the harsh realities of economic mobility in America, I have long been frustrated that our leaders are too removed from the experiences of real Americans.
Barnes spoke about these realities in his campaign, which is why I hoped for his victory.
Like Milwaukee-based journalist Dan Shafter wrote ahead of the election on Barnes’ candidacy, “A victory for a young black millennial politician, in this state of all, could be a sign that a generational shift in American politics is well underway.”
I blame racism for Barnes’ narrow loss, though I hope he and others like him not only show up again, but are actively recruited. Not because I think we should throw out older politicians. There is a lot of value in what we can glean from our elders.
But there has to be a moment when a politician understands when it’s time to let go and move on, and for too long too few of our political leaders have displayed a willingness to step aside and let others take over. relay. The American people deserve better than a Congress this old and this white.
Send more fresh blood already.