Is There a ‘Next Obama’ on the Democratic Party Bench?

February 25, 2016

“There is no one else — she’s the whole plan.” That’s how a Democratic donor described the state of the party’s bench to the Times in March 2015, by way of explaining the consolidated support Hillary Clinton was then receiving as her private email server first became a liability. Less than a year later, Clinton is struggling to compete against a candidate so unlikely a contender that his name hadn’t even occurred to anyone interviewed for that Times article. Clinton is 69; Bernie Sanders is 74. (And Joe Biden is 73.) Beyond them, the Democratic bench looks awfully thin.


But in presidential politics, things can change swiftly. Five years before he won the White House at 47, Barack Obama was a barely known state senator. Here are ten young Democrats who, like Obama, have unusual ambition, an inspiring life story, a gift for public oratory, or some combination of the three. They aren’t prominent — nor are they seasoned enough to have much of a shot on a 2016 ticket — but they just might be poised to break out eight years from now. They are the future of the party that styles itself the party of the future.



Rashida Tlaib: As the first Muslim woman elected (in 2008) to her state’s legislature, and as one of only two serving in an elected capacity anywhere in the country, Tlaib has been a voice for a badly underrepresented political constituency. The daughter of Palestinian immigrants, she helped raise her 13 younger siblings (“Ever since I was 7, I’ve been changing diapers”) and was the first in her family to graduate from high school. Term-limited out of office, she lost a State Senate race in 2014. But the person who beat her was later accused of assaulting his wife and will likely resign as part of a plea bargain. Tlaib hasn’t decided whether to run again.


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