Rep. Barbara Lee, a 72-year-old black congresswoman, accused her fellow Democratic House members of ageism and sexism after they selected Hakeem Jeffries, a younger black male, to lead the House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday.
The caucus chairmanship is the fifth-most powerful leadership position in Congress.
Unlike the hotly contested caucus race, those running for each of the four most powerful positions — house speaker, house majority leader, house majority whip and assistant Democratic leader — ran unopposed.
Both candidates for caucus chair — Jeffries of Brooklyn and Queens, and Lee of California — are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, an indication of the role that identity politics are playing in Democrats’ internal leadership races.
The Huffington Post wrote that Lee stumped for the post using the argument 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.”
But when Lee lost the race to Jeffries, 123-113, she attributed her loss to ageism and sexism among House Democrats.
“Well, I think you heard and saw what took place,” Lee told the Huffington Post when asked if being an older female worked against her. “So I absolutely think that’s the case.”
Jeffries, on the other hand, described the race as nothing more than a “friendly competition of ideas.”
The top three House leaders — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn — are all at least 78 years old.
Jeffries is 48.
Congratulations to Hakeem Jeffries. Nothing against Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn or Barbara Lee, but House Democrats need somebody in their leadership under 70. https://t.co/ghHT0gB4ay
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) November 28, 2018
This is a mistake. Hakeem Jeffries is great, but black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party and the rapidly growing progressive faction deserves a voice in leadership. https://t.co/tw9T6G7o0m
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) November 28, 2018
The previous head of the caucus was Joe Crowley, a moderate Democrat from New York who was considered a possible future speaker of the house until he unexpectedly lost his re-election bid to Congress to uber-progressive 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.
In 2014, the caucus was led by Xavier Becerra.
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