‘Anxious for a generational shift’
Political strategists Palmieri, Rove believe Americans seek change.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden are the 45th and 46th U.S. presidents, respectively. They’re also the only presidents to be at least 70 years old on their inauguration days.
If they run against each other again in 2024, when Trump turns 78 and Biden turns 82, whoever wins that race would be the oldest U.S. president at inauguration. However, as baby boomers continue to age, there eventually will be an inflection point as a younger generation takes over the Oval Office.
“The country is anxious for a generational shift,” says Karl Rove, who joined fellow political strategist and author Jennifer Palmieri on the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference stage Wednesday for a discussion on the top issues impacting Washington, D.C. “We’re in a moment where the American people have had it. They’re going to want something better, and they’re going to get it.”
Whether they get it in 2024 or later is yet to be decided. But Palmieri, a Democrat who was White House deputy press secretary for President Clinton, White House communications director for President Obama, and head of communications for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, agrees America is in a major fluctuation point as some people question the political process and lose faith in elections.
“The thing that makes me optimistic is the number of people voting,” she says. “On one hand, I feel like people are ready for a change and, on the other hand, I feel like people are so exhausted by change there is some sort of comfort in letting the status quo continue.”
Palmieri anticipates Biden will run again in 2024. If he decides not to, she’s encouraged by the Democratic candidates who could potentially run, whether in 2024 or further down the line.
“We have a deep, talented bench of people in their 40s and 50s. Trump helped make Democratic candidates great because they were so freaked out and had to work really hard in terms of organization and being good candidates,” Palmieri says, mentioning potential candidates like Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, Kamala Harris, Phil Murphy, and J.B. Pritzker.
“There’s an army of prospective Democratic presidential candidates,” says Rove, a Republican who ran a public affairs firm before serving as President George W. Bush’s senior advisor and deputy chief of staff. “People want the next president, whoever it is, to be looking toward the future and not the past.”
Rove says the Republican party is looking toward the future and putting forward more diverse candidates, which was evident in the midterms.
“The Republican party has awakened to the fact that it needs to look like America,” Rove says, believing it’s healthy for both parties to have more diverse representation in office.
With Rove stresses that the U.S. has seen more tumultuous political atmospheres in the past, he acknowledges there’s significant divisiveness today. However, he suggests there’s always a place for bipartisan organizations like CUNA and credit unions.
To maintain that bipartisan reputation, Rove stresses the importance of credit union advocates meeting with legislators to share their story.
“What makes CUNA powerful is the individual participation of people from back home—and not just during this one week in Washington,” Rove says. “Your issues are able to operate outside of politics because of the personal connections you’ve built up with members of Congress.”
Those connections led Ballast Research to name the CUNA-League system the most credible trade association in Washington, D.C., in 2022. Palmieri applauds CUNA’s effort to build trust with lawmakers, believing that citizens advocating on Capitol Hill goes a long way in fostering trust.
“It is the authenticity of the local leader that has a lot of power with the Democrats and the Republicans,” she says. “If you team up in that way to tackle a group of bipartisan members, it’s going to have an impact.”
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