Hakeem Jeffries
**FILE** Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., speaks outside of the CVC Auditorium after narrowly winning an intraparty contest for House Democratic Caucus chair against Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., during the House Democrats' organizational caucus meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

Democrats on Wednesday elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as the party’s leader, making him the first Black ever to head a major political party in Congress.

The congressman, who once quoted the late Notorious B.I.G. during one of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings and has maintained a vow to oppose Republican extremism, takes the reins from longtime House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who earlier this month stepped down from the party leadership role she held for nearly two decades.

Jeffries said he hopes to find common ground with the GOP where possible.

The 52-year-old leads a changing of the guard for Democrats, a party long headed by its most senior members, including Pelosi, 82, and South Carolina’s James Clyburn.

The new leaders include Reps. Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar, 43, of California.

Clark takes over for Clyburn, 82, as Democratic whip, while Aguilar replaces Steny Hoyer, 83, of Maryland.

“It’s a solemn responsibility that we are all inheriting,” Jeffries said. “And the best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment is lean in hard and do the best damn job that we can for the people.”

While Democrats will represent the House minority, “they will have a certain amount of leverage because the Republican majority is expected to be so slim and [presumptive House Speaker] Kevin McCarthy’s hold on his party fragile,” noted Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press.

“The House’s two new potential leaders, Jeffries and McCarthy, are of the same generation but have almost no real relationship to speak of,” Mascaro wrote. “The Democrat is known for leveling political barbs at the Republican from afar, particularly over the GOP’s embrace of former President Donald Trump.”

Jeffries served as a House manager during Trump’s first impeachment and dropped a well-known line from late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. to underscore how prolific the former president’s crimes appeared.

“And if you don’t know, now you know,” Jeffries said in the quintessential mic-drop moment. “We’re still working through the implications of Trumpism and what it has meant as a very destabilizing force for American democracy.”

Washington insiders – and many outsiders – have argued for some time that old-school Democrats needed to give way to a younger generation of leaders.

One journalist pointed out the “oldest member of the incoming Democratic leadership team is nearly a quarter-century younger than the youngest member” of the current Democratic leadership team.

“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) extends its highest respect and congratulations to the Honorable Hakeem Jeffries,” said NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

The NNPA is the trade association of 235 African American-owned newspapers and media companies.

“Congressman Jeffries exemplifies the transformative leadership and vision to strengthen American democracy for all who stand for freedom, justice, equality, and equity,” Chavis said.

Jeffries said Democrats must continue to work together towards meaningful progress.

“The thing about us is that while we can have some noisy conversations at times about how we can make progress for the American people, what we’ve seen is that under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, is that we’ve constantly been able to come together,” he said.

Maxwell Frost, the 25-year-old congressman-elect from Florida, perhaps best summed up the changing of the guard in the Democratic Party.

Frost this month became the first member of Generation Z to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he’ll serve under Jeffries’ leadership.

“I think it’s important that we have a government that looks like the people,” Frost said.

The change in Democratic leadership comes at a time when their Republican counterparts have seized control of the House, weaponized the U.S. Supreme Court, gerrymandered congressional maps throughout the country, and have used their pulpits to spark and spread messages of hate and division.

“Americans have tended to see younger candidates as less qualified to serve in office relative to a middle-aged or older candidate,” Damon Roberts, a political scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, told CBS News.

That view partly comes from age requirements.

To serve in the U.S. House, a candidate must be at least 25. A U.S. senator must be at least 30, while a presidential hopeful can’t be younger than 35.

“People do seem to be pretty positive toward having a younger representative,” Roberts said.

Stressed and sickened by thoughts of their rights and democracy slipping away, young Americans across gender, racial, geographic and education lines banded together last week to help save the Democrats from what many foresaw as a sizable midterm defeat, according to John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.

“In the eyes of many young voters, this is how America meets its destiny: when the passion of the grassroots melds with the power of institutions to forge progress,” Della Volpe wrote in an editorial. “As political analysts methodically review the numbers after an election for the ages, anyone interested in the winning formula for 2024 should closely examine those between the ages of 18 and 39.”

Gerald Warburg, a professor of public policy practice at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, noted that turnover in the youth-challenged leadership of the Democratic House and Senate caucuses had frozen for decades.

Until now, all Democratic legislative leaders were over 70 years of age.

Warburg contended that both parties might now welcome the opportunity to pass the torch to a new, post-baby boomer generation with fresh ideas.

Pelosi and Democrats, Warburg said, “had the courage to step back, making way for new leaders and new ideas.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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