Hillary Clinton's stunning defeat eight days ago set off a thousand aftershocks within the Democratic party -- many of which are only being felt now.
One of those aftershocks is that the Democratic party lacks a ready-and-waiting next generation of leaders to step up and lead it forward -- whether at the national level or in Congress.
Two developments this week highlight the party's leadership vacuum in Washington.
1) House Democratic leadership elections were postponed -- contrary to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's wishes -- from Thursday until November 30 to give the party more time to assess just what the heck happened on November 8 and what it all means.
2) Senate Democrats announced their new leadership team -- led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) -- without naming someone to fill the role as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a position usually given to a young up and comer within the party.
No one who knows anything thinks that Pelosi will be unseated in the race for Minority Leader -- whether it's held tomorrow or post-Thanksgiving. But, as Politico's Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan wrote in a piece on the postponement: "The next two weeks will now be a debate about the California Democrat’s future. After 14 years of Pelosi’s rule, some Democrats are asking whether it’s time for someone else."
That will be part of a broader debate within the party about who will lead its next iteration -- both in Congress and in the country more broadly -- amid the denouement of the Obama presidency and the shock of Clinton's failed ascendance.
And the truth of the matter is that the current ruling class within the Congressional party is, well, old.
Pelosi is 76. Her second-in-command, Maryland's Steny Hoyer, is 77. Jim Clyburn, the 3rd ranking House Democrat, is 76. Many of the younger members who were seen as potential party leaders have moved on or up. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) is in the Senate. (More on him below.) New York Rep. Steve Israel retired. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in no position to make a run at leadership after her disastrous tenure as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
The story is the same -- if a bit younger! -- on the Senate side. Schumer is a relative spring chicken at 65. Dick Durbin, the 2nd ranking Senate Democrat, is 71. Patty Murray, third in the pecking order, is 66. None are necessarily seen as potential national spokespeople for a party in crisis. And the likes of Van Hollen, who quite clearly could be that person, seem unwilling to jump into leadership as DSCC chair for fear of having a rough 2018 map to defend.
Contrast that with the Republican leadership in Congress. Speaker Paul Ryan is 46. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is 51. While Senate leader Mitch McConnell is 74 years old, there are a number of younger faces in GOP leadership including John Thune (55) and newly-elected campaign chair Cory Gardner (42).
The great thing about politics -- and the thing that should comfort Democrats staring into the leadership void at the moment -- is that it abhors a vacuum. As in, someone -- or, more likely, several someones -- will emerge. The question is when and who?
Cory Booker (N.J.) is widely seen as a candidate with national ambitions although the campaign he ran to get to the Senate was shaky (at best) and led to some whispering about whether he is even close to ready for what comes next. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) are ambitious for higher office but, at the moment, aren't terribly well known outside of their home states. (That, of course, can change if either one of them decided to change it.) California Sen.-elect Kamala Harris is widely seen as a future national candidate but hasn't even been sworn into the Senate yet. Rep. Keith Ellison's (Minn.) candidacy for DNC Chair could elevate a young, African American as one of President Trump's main foils.
That is to say that there are some Democrats who could eventually fill the leadership vacuum created by Clinton's implosion. But, none of them are an obvious fit today -- which is when the party needs them. And that's a problem.