Age in Politics

We find ourselves at a time in history in which a significant majority of candidates currently running for president are senior citizens. Lots are septuagenarians. It doesn’t matter who they are or what party they represent. The proliferation of elder candidates as a group – and not individual players — is addressed here today.

Older candidates running for political office are not unheard of; in fact, younger candidates are often deemed too inexperienced and naive to run a country as complex as ours. The age-old (pun intended) belief is that only with seniority and experience come the necessary qualifications and wisdom to handle the stresses of avoiding conflict and being the master/mistress of statecraft to bring about the best outcomes for our nation at large.

Keeping peace in the world is tricky, and the US plays a major role in that fine dance of diplomacy. Yes, boatloads of advisers exist to provide guidance for the president in making decisions and in steering events in one way or another. But the buck stops at the Oval Office. Thus, a leader who is sure-footed based on lots of past experiences is in the best position to make those weighty decisions quickly and with confidence. These individuals are usually elders.

How old is too old?

The answer to this question depends on who’s responding. I don’t think the seventy to eighty group is too old, but then again, I’m seventy-two. At the same time, I can see how Millennials and Gen Z’s would assume that elder candidates are out of date and uninformed (sorry Boomers, but seventy is not the new fifty!).

Changing the perception of age is a tricky endeavor. We’re attracted to those candidates – and people in general – who look younger and energetic, so appearance plays a huge role. But candidates who pile on the spray tan, maintain artificially honey-blond hair, or obviously use Botox to reduce wrinkles, miss the mark in reassuring voters of their relevance. Those who own their gray hair, provided they keep their teeth in order, leapfrog (creaky knees not withstanding) those drinking from the faux fountain of youth on the gravitas meter.

In my opinion ….

The negative aspect of so many elders running for office is that the important issues are being sidetracked. Age has become a talking point right up there with immigration, health care, and the military.

That said, I’ll admit to perking up when a politician has “a medical incident.” Are they fit for duty? I also wonder, when it’s obvious that lots of time and energy are spent on appearance, how much time and energy will be left to do the massive job of running the country.

Regardless of who will face off against the other, it’ll be interesting. I had to shake my head recently when one mid-seventies-year-old candidate tossed old-age barbs at those who were seventy-seven. Seriously?

How much does a candidate’s age affect your willingness to vote for him or her?