Bob Franken: Discrimination for the ages

Forgive my self-indulgence, but at the very start I need to point out that while I may not be young, I am immature. The immature part is familiar to anyone who knows me.

But what’s important here is that I’m old. So I freely admit that what I’m writing here comes with a bias: The Democrats are guilty of gross age discrimination and, might I add, hypocrisy. It is, after all, the same party that sanctimoniously pretends to oppose all “isms,” but obviously that doesn’t include ageism.

I’m specifically talking about the ones who would fancy themselves “young Turks,” but they’re more like you young twerps — at least some of them are. Inexperienced in the ways of Washington, they are among the House Democrats deciding to show their ingratitude to Nancy Pelosi, who, in fact, is truly adept at navigating the “swamp” maze. Not only that, but she probably had lots to do with them winning their elections. In response, a few of them want to drop her like a stone.

“We need new ideas,” they argue. You mean progressive ideas, children? These are the ideas that Nancy Pelosi has been championing for decades. But experience doesn’t seem to matter. So sayeth the kids who want to take over and run things. It’s as true in politics as it is in my craft and many others, which explains my bias: The youngsters, not far along in the school of life, are put in charge of people they consider obsolete.

Experience is unimportant to them, except that it really does matter, certainly in the D.C. labyrinth, where those who have navigated it for a while get to know all the twists and turns. You don’t necessarily need to be a young know-it-all. Look no further than Donald Trump, a really hoary one. (I love the word “hoary,” which gets back to the “immature” thing.) He’s senior, but inept! Which explains why he hasn’t been able to pull off many of his orders or whims. That plus the fact that his orders are illegally hateful or ridiculous, or because he constantly lies or because he doesn’t understand the Constitution or doesn’t care.

The real point is that Nancy Pelosi has spent an adult lifetime learning how to untangle the legislative Gordian knot. The newbies in the caucus barely know how to tie their shoelaces. The one thing that they have in common is hubris. They haven’t undergone the inevitable frustration that’s part of the governing process, nor have they learned many of the lessons that are really important. All they know is that they have great “new ideas,” like “Medicare-for-all” or tackling wealth inequality. Gee, why had nobody thought of such things before?

Without a Nancy Pelosi to guide them past all the traps, their shouts of idealism soon will turn into whimpers of misery as they are all bottled up by those on the other side, like Mitch McConnell, who has been a U.S. senator since 1985. His specialty is having neophytes for lunch.

Pelosi has been in the House for 30-plus years and has the unique skills needed to take on the regressives. Some of those who would dump her do not have 30 minutes’ worth of know-how. Here’s what Barack Obama had to say about Nancy Pelosi: “Her stamina, her ability to see around corners, her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done, I think, stands up against any person that I’ve observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime.”

That “stamina” thing is important, since the age bigots like to claim they have more energy. They are having a hard time keeping up with Nancy Pelosi as she uses all her moxie to keep her job. Assuming she does, she will apply to those who opposed her another time-tested Washington tactic: “Don’t get mad. Get even.”


• By Bob Franken


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