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The Mass Media

Why I am voting for Joe Kennedy and Pete Buttigieg, and you should too

As a young Democrat, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of the party. Many of us have the idea that the extinction of the Republican Party is demographically inevitable, with their alienation of ethnic and racial minorities and a whole generation of young people seemingly presenting an insurmountable voting bloc. Opposing this thesis is the current reality. Despite the popularity of Democratic Party policy, and the pure numerical advantage of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, Republicans still retain control of most major institutions. With their party controlling the White House, the Senate, a solid majority of state legislative districts, and 26 out of the 50 state governorships, they must be doing something right. (1, 2, 3). 

While there are structural factors that benefit Republicans in our current political system, I do not believe that is enough to explain their stranglehold on American political power. The Republican Party has a much stronger talent pipeline than the Democratic Party, allowing them to promote strong leaders to the top on a meritocratic basis, while the Democratic Party holds onto a mostly seniority-based system. And therein lies my central thesis: we, as young people, must elect Democrats—not just based on their past record and experience, but also on their political future—because our future depends on theirs.

The Democratic Party is dominated by the elderly. In the Democratic presidential primary, four of the top five candidates (Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Mike Bloomberg) would be the oldest president of all time by the end of their first term. In Massachusetts, our U.S. Senators are 70 and 73. We are electing people that were eligible for their full Social Security benefits years ago. Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, and Bernie Sanders, if elected, would all exceed American life expectancy by the end of their term (4, 5). This isn’t good for our future, which is likely considerably longer than theirs. True, there are advantages to the experience that all of these legendary politicians bring to the table, but they are past their prime, no matter what their medical reports say.

Politics is a very mentally and physically taxing profession. From the rigor of the campaign, demanding long hours and extensive travel, to the stress of having an entire community dependent on you, it is not a job for the faint of heart. I do not believe it is healthy for us to be placing these responsibilities on the elderly. Furthermore, their mental and physical decline threatens to make them less dependable leaders of a nation. When you are leading the most powerful country in the world, the lynchpin of the entire international order, you need to be dependable. The stability of all human civilization depends on the American president like no other person.

We need strong, capable, energetic, and progressive leadership to guide our path into the 21st century. In reality, on the left, there is very little difference in what these candidates are proposing or are capable of passing. All of the candidates favor a massive expansion of the social safety net, more protections for vulnerable populations within and without our borders, more power to the working and middle classes, combating climate change, and a multilateral, socially-conscious approach to foreign policy. Any policy differences are likely to be rendered moot in the face of Republican opposition in Congress and the courts, where any of them will just fight for whatever legislation they can get. What we need is not simply the most progressive platform, but a candidate capable of mobilizing support, both in DC and across the country.  

We need youthful leadership that understands the problems of the modern day and is not just simply retreading the wars of a bygone era. Gone are the days when the primary conflicts of this country were between factory workers and their corporate overlords, or between the West and the Red Menace. We face an era of minute and various threats, from the incredibly intricate challenge of climate change, to civil rights battles that extend beyond just simple legislation. This is a time that requires changing the very hearts of a nation struggling to emerge from its long history of racism and homophobia, to being confronted with complex, international battles for control over the future of world economy in the internet, robotics, and artificial intelligence. It may be possible for an elderly person to reframe the thinking that has been baked into their minds for decades, but, in my opinion, none of them have succeeded in this. The young candidates in these races have the benefit of a clean slate, not being influenced by the bygone era in the way their elders may be. They have a fundamental understanding of the challenges we face because they have lived through them.

This leadership can be found in young people like Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Representatives Joe Kennedy and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two of whom will be on our primary ballots in the coming year in Massachusetts. These people are all extremely progressive, forward-looking, articulate leaders, and represent the future of the Democratic Party. They will be in politics for decades to come, long after our current leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Ed Markey, and Bernie Sanders are dead and gone. They can play the long game that will be required to pass a progressive agenda, because they have a long time to work on it. They are already more capable in a host of ways in comparison to the leaders of today. They are all incredible speakers, campaigners, and communicators, capable of supporting not only their own agendas, but those of Democrats up and down the ballot for the better part of this century.

In passing up the opportunity to overturn the Democratic gerontocracy of today, we damn the future of the party for short-term interests. Let’s be realistic: Bernie Sanders will likely not be alive to see real universal healthcare achieved in this country, even if he magically passes it day one of his presidency. Joe Biden will not live to see the return of civility into our democracy, even if he defeats Trump in a landslide and initiates his promises of national reconciliation. Ed Markey will not be around to face the most pressing consequences of climate change or to celebrate in the fruits of the Green New Deal. Buttigieg, Kennedy, and Ocasio-Cortez will all live to face the consequences of their actions, and even to help deal with these consequences. Please, if you want to see real change in this country, vote for Pete Buttigieg and Joe Kennedy this year, and support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her bid for leadership in Congress. The future of the party and the nation depends upon it.

 

  1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/people/donald-j-trump/ 

  2. https://www.senate.gov/history/partydiv.htm 

  3. https://ballotpedia.org/Gubernatorial_and_legislative_party_control_of_state_government 

  4. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/the-age-of-democratic-presidential-candidates/

    5. https://www.famousbirthdays.com/people/michael-bloomberg.html