Indeed, the Democratic Party’s most recognizable candidates are either past their primes, out of the political mainstream, or both. Upcoming visits to early-voting states by Warren, Sanders, and Biden are the equivalent of a baseball team relying on a bunch of aging veterans whose best days are long behind them. “Bernie Sanders is now the leader of the Democratic Party,” lamented one party official, attributing Sanders’s standing to his superior name identification and deep connection to his socialist-minded supporters.
If the party was run like a business, it would be looking to market prospective candidates to its core consumers—a young and diverse constituency that has grown increasingly disillusioned with politics. The Democrats’ leading candidates, however, are a demographic mismatch: Biden will be 77 years old in 2020, and the memory of his service to President Obama will have faded. Sanders will be pushing 80 by the next presidential campaign, and he sounds more interested in changing the direction of the party than becoming president. Warren is the youngest of the bunch, but if elected, would be the oldest president in American history. All would be running on a platform of economic progressivism at a time when the energy on the Left is fueled by identity politics.
In a pre-Trump world, political experience, electability, and an even-keeled temperament would be valued highly. But there are alarming signs that the next generation of Democrats are learning all the wrong lessons from our unpredictable commander in chief. Many of the lesser-known contenders are evolving their style to appeal to the changing mores of the base. Gillibrand, for one, peppered her conversation with profanity in a glowing profile in New York Magazine. Booker abandoned his old bipartisan brand of politics to testify against his former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions during confirmation hearings.