BY SUSAN ESTRICH
And old legislators, some of the time. Nicholas Pelosi would the King of the Hill, and no one would be commenting on his clothes. It should be called Obama-Pelosi Care. But Nancy Pelosi’s still 78, an old House Speaker who needs some youthful consorts, or whatever it is appropriate to call them. I call them candidates.
Ronald Reagan was 76 when he left office. And that was four years after that ride to nowhere up the California highway in the first presidential debate of 1984, where the press finally started raising the “age” issue.
He was 72 at the time he took the ride. Seventy may be the new 50, but I was there and he sure seemed old.
Bernie Sanders will be 79 on Election Day 2020. Mike Bloomberg will be 78, and Joe Biden will be 76.
Bill Clinton is younger than any of the Big Three, and he’s been out of office for 17 years.
Come 2020, Hillary Clinton will be a sprightly 73, and Elizabeth Warren, the baby of the group, will be 71. God willing, of course, all of them.
Bill Clinton was 54 when he left office, and Barack Obama was 55. George W. Bush was 61 when he left office. Did they really seem too young?
And dare I point out that Donald Trump will be 74 for the 2020 election, and 78 if he gets four more years. Why, after watching exactly who generated all the excitement last week, are Democrats fronting the platinum-anniversary crowd? The 70s are no time to run for president, not when the party is teeming with new energy and old resentments.
I don’t care who you are; aging gracefully is still an oxymoron. Confronting mortality, sagging skin, painful joints and greying hair, if you’re lucky, has nothing to commend it but the alternative.
So it’s easy to understand why some of the most talented and committed people in American politics have difficulty letting go. I’m not doubting their ability to do the job, if by that you mean the job of making appointments and decisions, and facing endless pressure and the like. But that’s the piece you only get to do if you win.
There is only one question for me at this point: Can any of the old-timers beat Trump?
President Trump lost the House with the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years. That is not easy to do. I’m not one of those Democrats who thinks he’s stupid, and not one who thinks his supporters are all deplorable. I spent years on talk radio, and even more disagreeing with Sean Hannity on Fox. It’s no fun to have people look down on you, which is how a good chunk of Americans feel when they turn on the news – or listen to elite Democrats.
But while it may be true that Trump’s base would actually like him to kill former FBI Director James Comey [and not just get away with it, as he boasted he could], Trump’s base is not enough to re-elect him. That’s the problem with bases. The base Democratic vote going into 2020 is probably even greater, which means that the election will be decided by a combination of the preferences of the people who aren’t paying attention and the intensity of those who are.
The president didn’t win the Senate this time; he just won the draw. The Democrats had 26 seats up – more seats up than any party has had to defend in the last hundred years – and the Republicans had nine. Democrats gained 30 House seats – and maybe more. A victory for the president? How do you figure? There was never any chance of winning the Senate, and it had nothing to do with the president’s base.
In presidential elections, you don’t start with a 3-to-1 advantage. Whether Trump can continue to drive this country apart depends not only on how Speaker Pelosi and her team navigate the dangerous waters that the president so relishes but also whether her colleagues who are already dialing for donors remember what it felt like to be itching for the oldsters to step aside and give them their chance.
We had it, my friends. Now it belongs to our kids – and grandkids, even.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer