The Republican Party may be busily packing candidates into a clown car — yesterday it neared, finally, the “dirty dozen” required to hold either an in-depth debate on the merits of marijuana legalization or our own First Annual Republican Hunger Games (the clearly better idea, given how quickly it’d narrow the field) — but the Democrats seem to be struggling with their own field’s drawbacks. Namely, that no one currently running for the Democratic Presidential nomination is able to remember where they put their keys without one of those Brookstone echolocaters and a staff of twelve.
When did the “party of revolution” get so old? Just eight short years ago, it threw its weight behind a man who had barely served a term in Congress, before which he barely served his time in a state legislature, before which he barely served in a job long enough to qualify for health insurance. Barack Obama went straight from organizing community events in gentrifying neighborhoods to running the world’s most powerful nation. Granted, the lack of experience shows — we’re engaging in foreign policy of naptimes, juice boxes, and bike accidents — but do Democrats really feel that the proper response to an electorate tiring of an amateurish administration to call in the PGA Senior Tour.
The Democrats’ “presumptive nominee” is, of course, everyone’s favorite septuagenarian pantsuit enthusiast, for whom retirement has been exceedingly generous to her bank account. Questions about Hillary Clinton’s age are, by liberal definition, sexist, but she feels no shame in admitting that she dyes her hair, or that being a grandmother for six months has added to her qualifications to be President (bringing her grand total of accomplishments up to one, if you don’t consider that Chelsea did all the work). Hillary Clinton may try to polish her image with a campaign headquarters nestled in between artisan bakeries and gelato shops, and featuring organic fair trade coffee and extra “fixie” parking, but she’s still struggling to understand the concept of a smartphone, and attract any celebrities who haven’t spent most of the last two decades pickling themselves in regret. Like her campaign’s spokeswomen, Paula Abdul and Mariah Carey, Hillary is a throwback to the nineties relying on Baby Boomer nostalgia for a time when their kids didn’t demand they learn how to use a webcam to fill the seats.
Hot on Hillary’s heels is Martin O’Malley, the youngest of the field at a spry 52, determined to force the rest of the nation to regret voting for him the way Marylanders have learned to. He’s not the best-known Democrat, but he is the most likely to appear with his shirt off, clearly looking to appeal to Millennials by embracing the hipster “Dad Bod” trend that’s sweeping the nation. His biceps have young, new ideas, and his “physical fitness” is supposed to convey his determination and ambition. It mostly conveys that his office had a photographer on staff who was occasionally called upon to do things — terrible, terrible things — in service to improving his boss’s public image. A hard task, you might consider, since Martin O’Malley is still the first and only governor to tax his citizens for being rained on. At least, I’m sure he thought, they’d get off his lawn if he made them pay to drench it.
Finally, we have the young, up and coming whippersnapper who is making heads turn in progressive circles across this great nation’s English departments and unemployed graduate student populations: Bernie Sanders. Bernie is the kind of guy who can whip up a frenzy, but not too much of a frenzy or he might have to take a nap and an extra dose of blood pressure medication. He’s the kind of forward thinker that regularly pores through Karl Marx over his glass of Metamucil. And while I’m told he’s energizing the heck out of college campuses, every picture his campaign Tweets of his events — because he’s that kind of technologist — makes it look like he’s embarked on a whistlestop tour of Atlantic City BINGO halls. He’s running an upstart campaign that’s getting hundreds of people to look up from their Reader’s Digests.
The high median age for Democratic candidates is probably no accident. Baby Boomers are now among the largest voter bloc, and more than half of the electorate is now over the age of 45. And according to the Pew Research Center, the older group of Boomers who grew up in the Nixon era, to which Clinton and her ilk belong, are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. Consequently, they elect Democrats and run as Democrats. And like Clinton, O’Malley, and Sanders, they’ve retained some of the special traits of their coming of age. Boomer politicians have been quick to embrace overarching, “compassionate” big government policies that leave younger generations with the bill, and as they age, concerns for the survival of even larger government services — Social Security and Medicare — are growing, because the “Me Generation” has one thing on their mind: their own satisfaction and comfort. As the Baby Boomers have done through the sexual revolution and beyond, they’re focusing the power of their vote mostly on themselves.
What? You thought the spoiled, self-indulgent, self-obsessed Millennial generation learned those traits from the televisions that raised them?
Clinton, O’Malley, and Sanders have all, to varying degrees, demonstrated early appeal among Boomers. Clinton is cashing in on upper-middle class, older women who identify with her struggle being an upper middle-class, older white woman. Sanders is clearly cleaning up from the PBS pledge drive lists. And O’Malley is wooing the geriatric crowd with his sexy abs; by next July, his topless shot will be the most sought after poster in the nursing homes.
And meanwhile, Democrats are risking their political longevity on the longevity of their candidates.
With the Democratic Party reminding them ever more of their parents, it’s no wonder the Millennial vote is defying traditional models; looking ahead to 2016, a Harvard poll found, the Millennials are identifying as independents, and with the economy as their top priority have declared themselves up for grabs. After decades of being ruled by our parents, the Republicans may not seem like a fantastic option ideologically, but at least they’re less of a reminder of overbearing adult control. And that is an advantage for Republicans going forward: with a few exceptions, they’re younger, they’re more diverse and more challenging to each other. They’re more likely, it seems, to look like Gen-Xers and Millennials, with young children, mountains of student loan debt, kitchen appliance troubles, and employment concerns. Democrats, at least this time around, seem more likely to look like their biggest trouble is navigating the self-checkout at the grocery store.
So while we pack that clown car, remember: a wealth of choice is still preferable to a wealth of years. And at least the GOP has that going for them.