Democrats are supposed to be the party of millennials.
A 2014 report from Pew Research Center found those ages 18 to 33 were the most liberal age group.
“About four-in-ten Millennials are mostly (28 percent) or consistently (13 percent) liberal in their views, compared with 15 percent who are mostly (12 percent) or consistently (3 percent) conservative (44 percent are ideologically mixed),” the report stated.
But if you head to Capitol Hill, it’d be hard to realize that Democrats are the party of youth.
A leadership meeting of Washington Democrats may look more like a gathering of AARP members than a congressional caucus.
76. 77. 76.
Those are the ages of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Assistant Leader James Clyburn.
65. 71. 66.
Those are the ages of Senate Democrats Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin and Patty Murray. They were elected as the party’s top three leaders in elections held earlier this week.
Combined, these six leaders have more than 170 years experience in Congress. They were all elected before I was even born.
Now, age alone shouldn’t be the sole metric to measure a party or candidate’s ability to excite a political base or demographic.
After all, 75-year-old Bernie Sanders did just fine in reeling millennials and college students into his movement.
But having nearly an entire set of leaders from one generation signals a possible disconnect with the party’s base. It also signals a deep contrast from House Republicans. Their top three leaders — Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise —- are 46, 51 and 51 respectively.
However, it’s not just the ages that are troubling for the Senate Democratic leaders. It’s also the length of their tenure in Washington. They are the epitome of the old guard.
When Donald Trump talks of “draining the swamp,” he may be referring to such long-standing leaders.
And that message may resonate with independent and moderate voters. Maybe even some Democrats, too. It’s clear there were voters who previously voted for Democrats and then voted for Trump in this month’s elections.
That’s probably the case in Jay County. For instance, Trump garnered 71 percent of the vote here, but no local contested Republican earned more than 68 percent.
The aging Democratic leadership in Washington should not be the party’s only concern.
So should the voter turnout from this month’s elections. An article from the Wall Street Journal highlighted that turnout was down nationwide in the general election. Most concerning to Democrats is that turnout was down in a number of urban areas, which have been a traditional base for Democrats.
A closer look at the numbers should worry Democrats. I went ahead and did some research on my current home state of Indiana and my native state of Missouri.
In just four Indiana counties did a majority of voters choose Hillary Clinton.
Two of them were the state’s most populous counties: Marion and Lake. Both are Democratic strongholds. Both saw a drop in voter turnout.
In Marion County, turnout dropped to 51.76 percent from 56.41 in 2012. In Lake County, the drop was from 60.59 percent in 2012 to 56.76 this year.
Between the two counties, Clinton received 17,661 fewer votes than President Barack Obama did in the 2012 presidential election.
Missouri tells a similar story. Clinton only won three counties and the City of St. Louis. Turnout in the state’s largest county, St. Louis County, was down only by about 3 percent from 2012, but that still meant Clinton received nearly 17,000 less votes than Obama did in that year.
The figures from St. Louis City tell a more important story. In nine of the city’s 28 wards, more than 90 percent of voters chose Clinton.
However, these wards, located in heavily African-American neighborhoods, had some of the lowest turnout figures. They averaged about a 61 percent turnout this year, compared to 72 percent in 2012.
Coincidentally, these were the wards that most strongly voted for Clinton in March’s presidential primary.
These turnout figures, coupled with the aging leadership, highlight a lack of excitement in the Democratic party.
It’s own base wasn’t even influenced enough to turnout a few weeks ago. Even with strong turnout in Marion and Lake counties and St. Louis City and County, it’s unlikely Clinton would have won either state.
However, Missouri and Indiana both had hotly contested statewide contests on the ballot. It’s likely the lower urban vote totals shifted the margins in the those.
If they’re smart, Hoosier and Show Me State Democrats should address the party’s turnout and age problems immediately. Both states have Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018. They won’t win without decent turnout in urban areas.
Somehow, they’ll have to excitement for their base. That’ll be a challenge.