The youth of successful Democrats makes perfect sense. Democrats are the party of progress, of hope and of change. It seems quite sensible, therefore, that their voters would gravitate toward youth, vigor and new ways of thinking. In short, the progressive coalition seeks candidates who represent how they see themselves. And these younger nominees have been able to successfully bridge reform impulses across generations. Roosevelt (age 50) united the Missionary Generation that had backed Woodrow Wilson’s progressivism two decades earlier and the GI Generation by promising programs that would provide economic security. Kennedy (age 43) joined the GI Generation and baby boomers around the idea of further expanding social insurance programs. Bill Clinton (age 46), in turn, animated baby boomers and Generation Xers with an agenda focused on restoring fairness to the economy. Finally, Obama (age 47) fused Gen Xers, millennials and nonwhite voters around a message concentrated on reforming the health-care system and working toward energy independence.
Warren, Sanders, Biden, Hillary Clinton, Kerry and Bloomberg would all be more than two decades older than the oldest non-incumbent Democrat elected to the White House in a century. During that time, the Democrats have elected only two people over 60 to the presidency: Roosevelt for his fourth term, and Harry Truman when he won election after ascending to the presidency upon Roosevelt’s death.
Today, Generation X and the millennials have become a majority of the electorate, and more than a quarter of voters are nonwhite. And so it seems prudent that activists and donors should be critically assessing the crop of younger hopefuls who would seem to better fit the mold for successful Democratic contenders.