Although political socialization is a lifelong process, the “impressionable or formative years” are between childhood and adulthood. Similarly, professionally, we are often heavily shaped by the early years of our careers, only partly updating our views later. For the Democratic leaders, this means that they were politically socialized in the 1960s and their professional socialization was in the 1980s – for Biden it even started in the 1970s. All have served in Congress for at least 35 years, starting when Ronald Reagan was president – in Biden’s case it was Richard Nixon – presidents, and Republicans, that most voters know only from the history books.
In itself, this huge age gap between elites and masses does not have to create a problem of representation. Politicians like Bernie Sanders (80) and Jeremy Corbyn (72) have become the political heroes of a new generation of voters in recent years. And in terms of political priorities and values even Biden and Pelosi might be relatively close to the people they represent. The real problem is in their dated understanding of politics and the contemporary Republican party, and its political leadership, which has gotten stuck in the 1980s.
For instance, President Biden regularly reminisces about the days when he could have lunch with segregationists, when he and politicians he disagreed with could still “respect” each other.
Join the conversation as a VIP Member