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America is stuck in a moment, and the cure may be worse than the disease. Rooting for old men is not the answer.
President Joe Biden is running for a second term, with Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate. Sen. Bernie Sanders is not running, and has endorsed Biden. Should Biden win, his November 20th birthday will celebrate his 82 years on earth; he will be president until after his 86th birthday, by far the oldest president ever to serve. In a replay of the 1892 election’s weird rematch, both Biden and (at this point) the likely Republican nominee would be seeking their second term as president.
On June 4, 2024, former President Donald Trump will celebrate his 78th birthday. In the unlikely event he wins, he will be 82 by the end of his second term—the same age Biden will be when he ends his first term.
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The U.S. Senate’s median age is 65.3 years, with 4% over 80, just over one-third over 70, and two-thirds over 60. The House is a only slightly younger, with just under half celebrating their 59th or older birthday this year; 4% are 78 or older.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the Senate’s oldest member, at 89. Many in the media are finding themselves tiptoeing through the garden of old age, practically stage-whispering “Feinstein’s too old” sotto voce, so as not to tickle the ears of eager Republican election strategists waiting to capitalize on the age factor. “It’s not about age,” is how the headline in Tuesday’s L.A. Times column by Steve Lopez answered its own question, then deflected.
It wasn’t long ago that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a youngster of 51, called for mandatory mental health competency tests for politicians older than 75. I have to say I am not opposed to mental health competency checks for politicians, but rather than base it on age, I’d begin with those who keep insisting the last presidential election was stolen.
Let me diverge a bit here to note that Don Lemon was ostensibly fired from CNN for telling his audience that Nikki Haley was not “in her prime.” A woman in her prime, he added, is “in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.” I should point out that there have been ten presidents who assumed office under 51 years old; the five youngest were Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, Bill Clinton, Ulysses S. Grant, and Barack Obama.
You can’t tell voters that you are the party of youth (as both parties claim), yet age is not a factor. Well, you can tell them, but you won’t get away with it. Sen. Feinstein is single-handedly blocking scores of judicial appointments by her absence and refusal to quietly resign. She is a mere seven years older than Joe Biden.
We are making 2024 the replay election of two old men who last battled in the most dysfunctional election, possibly in the history of the nation, and I’m including 1824 and 1876. If we proceed to the end game where it’s Biden vs. Trump again, voters will be forced to choose which president is least unfit to serve, versus which president should lead our executive branch.
It’s not even summer, when the campaign season officially kicks off, and we’re wondering if Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis can run, never mind become the front-runner. How is the GOP going to have debates with Trump in the mix? If Trump declines to participate, will the debates matter—or simply become a bleating chorus of Trump-bashing, while lawyers hash out Trump’s (multiple?) criminal trials in the media.
Then if Trump is not in jail (I don’t see that as a likely outcome before the Republican primaries and convention—Trump’s lawyers are very good at delay), and the GOP nominates him again, how can the nation endure any number of debates between Trump and Biden on the same stage? I doubt either of them would consent to appear together in any forum.
So we’d be left with a destroyed GOP, consisting of Trumpists and exiled anti-Trumpists (and closet versions of both), wholly owned by the Trump mafia, fighting a Democrat who will garner all the important endorsements. But none of that will matter, because the election won’t be about anything at all. It will be two old men, one willing to tell the most egregious lies about himself, versus Donald Trump, who knows no bounds of incivility.
There are millions of voters in this nation who are stuck in a moment they can’t get out of. They won’t give up fighting the last fight, the one from 2016, or 2020. Logic, facts, or policy goals have no effect on these voters. They are in a political funk; and it’s a long way down to nothing at all.
The alternative to fighting this terrible replay of a terrible election is to move on. Republican politicians are afraid of Trump voters, because those voters have influence in primary elections. But in general elections, the candidates those same voters chose went down in flames.
However, in 2024, the dynamic is different. President Biden will be running against himself, not whoever the Republicans nominate. And if the Republicans nominate Trump, Biden could still lose. Counting on Trump to self-destruct might be the safe bet, but it’s not a guarantee. In 2016, Hillary Clinton counted on Trump to self-destruct, acted as if she was running against herself, and lost.
The age factor is a big deal, for both candidates. I have little faith that Ron DeSantis could beat Trump through the primary season. I have yet to see anyone who can, which is immensely sad. As I’ve written before, the best way to stop Trump lies with the judge and jury, but even that might not stop him from winning the primary.
That means we could very likely end up with another round of “stolen election” scams and conspiracies, and four years of the oldest president in history. We could very well end up with Kamala Harris as president. If Joe Biden came in pill form, the FDA would never approve him, because the side effects of the drug would be potentially worse than the disease it’s supposed to cure.
We’re stuck in a moment, and we need to move on.