We are in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 6 November 2024, and after a nail-biting night two men are preparing to give their respective victory and concession speeches in the US presidential election. One of the men is days away from his 82nd birthday, the other is 78.
The prospect of a possible rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in two years’ time is instilling trepidation in both main parties. It is not just the political perils that go with either individual, it’s also the simple matter of their age.
What happened to the America of the new world, the young country?
But in the wake of this week’s midterm elections there is a stirring in the air. The Democratic party may remain heavily dominated by the old guard – the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is 82 and the top senator, Chuck Schumer, is 69 – yet there are strong signs of fresh beginnings.
From the first openly lesbian governors in the US and first Black governor of Maryland, to the first Gen Z member of Congress, as well as battle-hardened young politicians in critical swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, a new slate of Democratic leaders is coming into view after Tuesday’s elections. They may be too new to reshape the 2024 presidential race, but they carry much promise for the years to come.
“There’s a generational change happening of the kind you see every few decades,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who has worked on state and congressional campaigns. “A younger generation is emerging with different ideas who aren’t necessarily wedded to the old way of doing things.”
It is perhaps no coincidence that several of the names garnering attention are to be found in battleground states where their political skills and resilience have been put to the test. In Michigan, which has become a frontline state in the struggle between liberal versus Maga politics, Gretchen Whitmer handily won a double-digit re-election in her gubernatorial race against Tudor Dixon, an election denier.
Whitmer, 51, proved herself not only adept at fending off election subversion misinformation in a midwestern state, but she also withstood the pressures of the kidnap plot against her which led to last month’s convictions of three anti-government plotters. “After two terms as governor, Whitmer is going to be well placed for a move on to the national stage,” Trippi said.
Another breeding ground for the new Democratic leaders is Pennsylvania, which has also been on the frontlines of the Maga wars. John Fetterman, 53, was widely written off by conservative pundits after his televised debate in the race for a US Senate seat with his Trump-endorsed opponent, Mehmet Oz, who had ridiculed him for his speech impediment caused by a stroke in May that almost killed him.
Fetterman survived all that opprobrium to frame a classic Pennsylvania story: his rise from small-town mayor to US senator-elect. He still has a mountain to climb in his physical recovery, but he is clearly now a fixture in national politics.
Pennsylvania has spawned…