Julian Castro wants you to know that Joe Biden is old. During last week’s Democratic presidential debate, Castro told Biden six times that Biden couldn’t remember what he just said.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro asked the former vice president. “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that.”
The day after the debate, Castro insisted that his badgering had only to do with health care policy, but it was just politically dumb, given who the most reliable voters will be in 2020, not to mention who Democratic voters put their faith in coming out of last year’s midterms. Even in today’s millennial moment, young Democratic activists have lionized a handful of leaders to icon status.
Top among those is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 86, the beloved “Notorious RBG.” Likewise, few crowds on the progressive left are larger, younger, more subversive or more adoring than those of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who at 78, is a year older than Biden. Is Bernie too old to be president? The Berniecrats don’t think so. Is he too socialist to be president? Maybe, but that’s what the debates are designed to figure out.
What about 79-year-old Speaker Nancy Pelosi? The California Democrat’s brand was so hot last year that the fashion brand Max Mara reissued the red coat Pelosi was seen wearing.
If age was a factor at all in 2018, it’s possible that the wrinkles and gray hair on the faces of Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, 80, and James E. Clyburn, 79, only helped with the voters they needed most.
Voters 65 and older were nearly twice as likely to vote last fall as those under 30, boasting a turnout rate of 66 percent compared to 36 percent for 18- to 29-year-olds. And while Donald Trump won voters over 65 by a decisive 7 points in 2016, Democrats reduced the Republicans’ edge among those older voters to just 2 points in their midterm victories two years later.
Democrats and the media have become focused on the younger, urban, more diverse coalitions they believe will deliver Democratic victories in the future. But Democrats have both an opportunity and, frankly, an obligation to talk more about the programs that older voters rely on, including Social Security and Medicare, while Trump runs up trillion-dollar deficits and multi-trillion-dollar debts.
What Castro showed last week is that even young candidates make mistakes.