The Democrats' gerontocrats
Like the old gray men of the Kremlin, the Democratic Party is led by gerontocrats. Like their socialist counterparts from that bygone era in the 1980s, they just don't want to leave. Nancy Pelosi's recent insistence on staying, despite her obvious health failings, is but one example, and there are others. According to Mike Allen's Axios, the top three Democrats in the House leadership are all near 80 years old. And it extends to the Democrats who'd like to unseat President Trump in the next election.
Three of the most talked-about 2020 contenders are Sen. Bernie Sanders, 76; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 68; and former Vice President Joe Biden, 74.
Hillary Clinton, now 70, should be added to the list as well.
If I had to guess why this is happening, my first would be that these people are all socialists, and socialism, as an idea, fails in action every time you try it. It's spent, and as the Venezuelan default piece I wrote this morning shows, it's absolutely unable to point the finger at itself to rectify its errors and then reform.
My second thought was that the Democrats did manage to get a socialist in power eight years ago: the youthful Barack Obama, who campaigned on race and "making history" and image to such an extent that he was able to obscure the socialism he was really about. The Democrats might not be able to try that trick again, given that the U.S. is in critical need of a growing economy and has barely started on that path with the election of President Trump. The Venezuelan alternative of no growth along with ruin and default as the result of nineteen years of socialism is too well known, at least for now.
The other socialist the Democrats were able to insert into the presidency, Bill Clinton, got there on both youth and the offering of socialism lite. That may hold more promise for winning elections if Democrats can embrace incrementalism rather than disguise their socialism by race. But the Democratic base has swung hard left, and for Democrats, that will be a tall order.
The gerontocratic phenomenon suggests that with Obama gone, Democrats have entered a picture of late-stage socialism.
There is an old Soviet joke about this issue, descriptive in a story about the great Siberian railroad. When the train traveling on it broke down in the middle of nowhere, its engineer at the helm, Vladimir Lenin, ordered everyone on it to get out from the train and push. When the train broke down again, Joe Stalin was at the helm and ordered the NKVD to shoot half and tell the other half they'll be shot too if they don't push. The train broke down again under Khrushchev, and this time, saboteurs wrecked the tracks. Khrushchev ordered the passengers to take the tracks from the back of the train and move them to the front. The train broke down again under gerontocratic Leonid Brezhnev. He ordered the passengers to pull down the shades and bounce up and down to give the impression that the train was moving.
That seems to describe the Democrats' gerontocratic rule today as they seek to retain power and make it hard for younger faces to come forward. They do have some election wins recently to point to as a matter of pride. They also have a few younger leaders, as Axios notes. But the larger picture is that the people at the top aren't budging. Perhaps it will take a palace coup of sorts to dislodge them, as occurred in the case of the Soviet Kremlin. If so, the Democrats are in for some fireworks.