The passionless, compromised assumptions about politics among mainstream Democrats in the 1990s seem deeply irrelevant to the post-Great Recession, post-Iraq war world of #BlackLivesMatter, the Occupy movement and a socialist slugging it out in the polls. The “Reagan Democrats” we were chasing have now been Republicans for half a lifetime, and aren’t coming back, while an “emerging American electorate” that is younger and less white takes their place.
Step into any progressive organization in Washington or the states, and you’ll see the same phenomenon: leadership by baby boomers, an intense and passionate group of 20- and 30-somethings, and nobody else. The middle generation is largely missing. Similarly in the electorate, support for Democrats drops off in the 45-64 age group.
Eventually, this may not matter. Younger politicians and public servants shaped by more recent experience will take their place in leadership and in national elections. But the missing middle-aged Democrats remind us that the formative assumptions of each generation can cast a long shadow on the future.