by Luke Rosiak
A 72-year-old black congresswoman accused her fellow Democratic House members of ageism and sexism after they selected a younger black male, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, to lead the House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday.
The caucus chairmanship is the fifth-most powerful leadership position. Unlike the hotly contested race, all of the top four were elections in which only one person ran.
Both candidates for Caucus chair — Jeffries of Brooklyn and Queens and Barbara Lee of California — are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, an indication of the role identity politics are playing in Democrats’ internal leadership races.
“Lee, 72, argued that, with African-American women serving as a backbone to the Democratic Party, it made sense for an African-American woman to serve in Democratic leadership,” The Huffington Post wrote.
But when Lee lost the race 123-113, she attributed her loss to ageism and sexism among House Democrats. The Huffington Post wrote:
Asked after the vote whether ageism or sexism played a role in the results, Lee replied: “Well, I think you heard and saw what took place. So I absolutely think that’s the case.”
The top three House leaders — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn — are all 78 or 79 years old. Barbara Lee is also in her 70s, while Jeffries is 48. Many in the Democratic grassroots have clamored for new blood, saying a generation of Democrats have been stymied by a lack of career path.
The previous head of the Caucus was Joe Crowley of New York, a moderate Democrat who was considered a possible future Speaker of the House until he unexpectedly lost his re-election to Congress to Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The Democrats’ top five leadership slots now have two black members and one Hispanic member, even though the United States is 18 percent Hispanic compared to 12 percent black. The Caucus was led by Xavier Becerra in 2014.
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