When Will the Democratic Party Get Real About Its Aging Politicians?

Replacing Democratic retirees with other older people is a shortsighted recipe for disaster

Michael Arceneaux
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readNov 23, 2021

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Last week, Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate’s longest-serving Democrat, announced he is retiring after 47 years in office.

For those unfamiliar with Leahy, he is the other old White male Vermont senator not named Bernie. Leahy also has the distinct honor of being the sole member of Congress to have been featured in several Batman movies (five, for those curious). And earlier this year, the 80-year-old senator was briefly hospitalized mere hours after being sworn in to preside over the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

At the time, his spokesperson said via statement that Leahy was “was not feeling well,” but failed to share any diagnosis or indicate whether Leahy’s condition had improved. The health scare prompted alarm given Democrats control the Senate chamber by a narrow 50–50 majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Leahy’s status can’t be understated: President pro tempore of the Senate, he is constitutionally the second-highest-ranking Senate official after Harris, and third in the line of presidential succession behind Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On why he wouldn’t be seeking a ninth term in 2022, Leahy said: “I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s time to put down the gavel. It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter… it’s time to come home.”

Yes, because with all due respect to the senator with Batman clout and nearly half a century of serving in Congress behind him, if Leahy hadn’t decided to retire on his own accord, the party should have pleaded with him to do so. He is in his eighties, and while I am inspired by all of the active older people out in the world — especially those whose dancing is going viral on TikTok — they can’t be allowed to rule the world forever.

Democrats have been stuck in their old ways with their old candidates for far too long. If they keep this bad habit up, their party may die with them.

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Michael Arceneaux
LEVEL

New York Times bestselling author of “I Can’t Date Jesus” and “I Don’t Want To Die Poor.”