There’s nothing quite so thankless as being the nominal leader of a leaderless party, especially if that party is bereft of power and doesn’t have much to offer by way of an agenda, except for maybe keeping the other party from destroying the country.
When the majority party fails, your supporters say it’s only because the president is an evil buffoon and everyone has figured it out. When the majority succeeds, they say it’s your fault, because obviously you failed to make clear to people what an evil buffoon the president really is.
So it goes for Nancy Pelosi, who’s come under withering criticism (again) since Democrats got clobbered in two more special elections for Congress last week. Facing calls for her resignation, the longtime House leader acknowledged that she’s something of an easy target for Republican ad makers who want to portray the party as a bunch of coastal elites.
And yet, she wryly told reporters at the Capitol, “I think I’m worth the trouble.”
To be clear, Pelosi had almost nothing to do with the Democrats’ recent losses, all of which came in conservative districts the party had no business winning, anyway. But that quote said a lot about the way she and her aging contemporaries think about themselves.
Pelosi should leave the stage not because she’s controversial, but because what Democrats desperately need, more than any new branding strategy or slogan, is a turnover in talent. Which is why the rest of the party’s oldster luminaries should follow her to the exit, too.
Here’s a question for all you trivia buffs to ponder. Who do you think was the last nonincumbent Democrat over 55 to win the White House? I’m not talking about Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson, both of whom inherited the job, but someone running against a sitting president or at the end of an eight-year term.
Here’s a hint: You weren’t alive, and neither were your parents.
The answer is Woodrow Wilson, who ran so long ago that you could still be both a progressive and a white supremacist and not have everyone find that completely bizarre.
Why is that? It’s not because there weren’t any older candidates to vote for, or because America was somehow ageist. From Wilson’s time to today, the country elected no fewer than five new Republican presidents who were at least that old. In fact, before George W. Bush, the last nonincumbent Republican under 55 to win the White House was Herbert Hoover.
No, it’s because Democrats win when they embody…