Thursday, January 06, 2011

Young Republicans Oust Aged Demonrats From House

Michael Barone has an interesting article in the Washington Examiner on the changing of the guard the 112th Congress represents.
Democrats like to think of themselves as the young party, the party of new ideas. And in 2010 they remained the choice of the youngest voters, though by only half the margin in 2008.

But when you look at the top Democrats in the House, you don't see young faces. The ages of the ranking Democrats on the Appropriations, Ways and Means, Education, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary committees are 70, 79, 65, 71, 70, 69 and 81. The three party leaders are 70, 71 and 70.

Just about all these members are competent at pushing bills through the House, thanks to the fact that the House Democratic Caucus chooses the chairmen and ranking members by secret-ballot vote. Less competent members get weeded out.

And because House Democrats, unlike House Republicans, don't limit most of their chairmen to three two-year terms, competent chairmen can stay on and on. All those referred to above stayed in the House during 12 long years of Republican control, waiting for their party to win control again. House Republican chairmen, in contrast, have often chosen to retire after their three terms.

You get a similar picture when you look at leading politicians in the nation's largest and one of its most Democratic states, California. Jerry Brown, elected governor at 36 and 40, has now won that office again at 72. The state's two U.S. senators are 77 and 70. They began their political careers, as did the leading House Democrats, way back in the 1960s or 1970s.

So if the Democratic electorate is tilted toward the young, the Democrats' leaders are tilted toward the old. And I think this matters at a time when, as scholar Walter Russell Mead writes in the American Interest, "The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don't work anymore, and the gaps between the social system we've inherited and the system we need today are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper them over or ignore them."

Barone doesn't get too deeply into the fact that many more young Demonrats were defeated last November because they were so-called Blue Dogs in districts that are more-or-less 50-50 between the two parties. The ancient fossils now remaining on the left side of the aisle are those Demonrats in the super-secure gerrymandered districts that are 70% or more Dem because of the rough-and-ready slide rule of reapportionment that takes every ten years tending to split districts into sure-GOP and sure-Dem districts with a moderate middle in those districts that can go either way. In 2010, if a district could go either way, it almost certainly went Republican, just as in 2006 & '08, these middle districts went Demonrat. Hence the swing of 63 seats going to the GOP, leaving the Dems with 30 Black Caucus and a few Hispanic-majority districts plus the largely two Left Coasts.
During]...the America of World War II and the postwar decades, when American life was dominated by the leaders of what I have called the Big Units -- big government, big business, big labor. The assumption was that these units would grow ever bigger, to the benefit of ordinary people.

That assumption was shared by the Democratic leaders of the just-departed 111th Congress, who grew up in Big Unit America. They passed a $787 billion stimulus package on the assumption that big government would put people to work. They passed the health care bill on the assumption that centralized experts in big government could provide better care at lower costs.

The voters in November 2010 rejected those assumptions. It's not clear whether congressional Republicans can advance policies more in line with the changed character of our society. And it's an open question whether they can reach agreement on any important issues with Barack Obama, who is a generation younger than most of his party's leaders in Congress.

The Democrats' congressional leaders will defend the Obama agenda to the extent possible. But can they take their party in a somewhat different direction than the one voters rejected in November?

The rejection of the "Bigness" of the segments of the American political pie may be an important re-evaluation of the American voter which will lead to local issues being front-and-center in their windshield, rather than the panoramic one-size-fits-all of a national top-down installed and administered health program or any other "Big" program.

Voters can look at Europe and other countries where top-down has only led to sloppily administered statist programs run by indifferent functionaries not interested in doing their job particularly well because they're not being paid well nor are they being stimulated to improve the programs they administer.

Why should America worship 'a God that failed' instead of applying the old Yankee can-do spirit, if that sort of initiative hasn't been drained out of our popular culture by ceaseless calls to conformity and relentless education toward the politically correct mindset that will help us 'all get along together' without ever really seeking a quest or working for personal achievement?

Short answer: It shouldn't worship any system except the constitutional framework which has succeeded for over 220 years in making America the greatest nation in world history.

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