Under normal circumstances, the weirdness of this presidential cycle — the historically large and fragmented Republican field, the dominance of outsider candidates and the slow-rolling revival of nationalism in the conservative base — would be enough to make Democrats giddy. But they shouldn’t feel too smug; they have their own party leadership problem. It’s not as visible, but it is potentially more disastrous.
While the Republican Party has taken advantage of its deep bench with an unwieldy group of presidential contenders this year, there is a dearth of leadership — especially young leadership — in the Democratic Party. Republicans may face a house divided between establishment candidates and outsiders, but Democrats’ only option, at practically every level of government, is the old guard.
What might account for this graying of the Democratic field? The 2010 midterm elections hold a clue. The most conspicuous outcome then was a deluge of Republicans breaking into Congress and intent on blocking President Obama’s agenda. But the Republican Party’s biggest victory in 2010 may not have been a majority in the House; the 2010 wave also netted Republicans an immense level of control over much of the country’s redistricting process for the next 10 years.