America’s Aging Leaders: A Worrying Phenomenon or Seniority for Enhancing Influence?

Murad Jandali | 7 months ago

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Although the retirement age in the United States can start at 62 and may continue until 70, the matter is different for elected politicians such as the president and members of Congress and for those who are appointed by members of the Supreme Court. There is no ceiling for the retirement age, and many of them continue until the last day of their lives, creating a worsening aging problem in the country.

During the coming period, the U.S. will enter a unique and historic election battle in light of the unprecedented aging of its most likely candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties, amid concerns about the issue of the aging of American leaders.

Joe Biden is already the oldest U.S. president in history. If he is re-elected, he will be inaugurated as president at the age of 82, and his second term will end after four years when he turns 86. If Donald Trump wins, he will be 79. In this case, both would break the age record for U.S. presidents.

The octogenarian scene, which reflects the state of political aging in Washington or the so-called aging leadership, has become a phenomenon that raises concern because they are far from reality, while their supporters say that their seniority and experience enhance their influence.

According to an NBC analysis, the current Congress is the second-oldest Senate and third-oldest House in American history.

The median age for senators is 65, the highest on record. The median age for the House has hovered around 59, higher than any year before the past decade, according to FiveThirtyEight.

As people over the age of 70 dominate U.S. politics, there is growing concern that the voices of young people are being excluded. Despite people under the age of 40 making up the majority of the U.S. population, they make up only a small percentage of representatives in Congress.

 

Aging Leaders

30 seconds of ambiguous silence experienced by Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell was enough to cause a huge uproar within political and media circles.

In the second health symptom of its kind to afflict him within a month, McConnell, 81 years old, who was elected for his seventh term in 2020, appeared as if he had suffered a state of paralysis for a few seconds, as he suddenly stopped speaking during a press conference held in his home state of Kentucky.

While one of the journalists asked whether he wanted to run again for the 2026 Senate elections, the senator did not move a finger despite one of his aides trying to urge him to answer, but to no avail.

The first symptom was not much different, as the veteran senator suffered the same condition last July 26, when he was speaking to the media in the Capitol and froze in place for no apparent reason.

It is noteworthy that last March, the senator suffered a concussion and a broken rib after a fall.

There is also a long record of elderly political candidates and leaders, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein, the dean of aging for Democrats in the Senate, who ignored calls to submit her resignation, even though she is over 90 years old and moves around in a wheelchair and can barely speak.

Like her, there is Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa (89 years old), who last week won another six-year term.

20 years ago, Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina died at the age of 100, making him the oldest person to continue political work at this advanced age throughout U.S. history and throughout his history as a senator, which began in 1948.

With Biden announcing his intention to run for a second presidential term in 2024, if he succeeds, at the age of 82, and if fate so desires that he completes his second term, he will leave the White House at the age of 86, setting a record, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who left the White House at the age of 77.

The most likely Republican candidate, Donald Trump, on his part, is not better off, because if he were to win the 2024 elections, he would be 78, and his term would end when he was 82.

 

Surprising Gaffes

During his speech in September 2021, and in light of the escalation of the Australian submarine crisis, the direction of whose purchases changed from France to the U.S., President Biden was unable to remember the name of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The next day, The Times asked: “If the Americans had a younger president, he would have made the same mistake?”

What is interesting is that Trump himself made similar mistakes when he was in Mosinee, Wisconsin, to attend a popular rally.

The same thing happened to America during the time of Ronald Reagan, when he welcomed Princess Diana as Princess David, and no sooner had the man left the White House than he announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Looking at the rest of the pillars of the U.S. partisan leadership today, representatives and senators, the researcher will find surprising names and ages, as if the U.S. political womb had already been sterilized from introducing new figures.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the voice of progressives in the past two Democratic primaries, turns 82 next week, while Senate Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer is about 72.

In turn, Dan Mahaffey, Vice President of the Center for Presidency and Congressional Studies, considered that “what we are seeing is a transformation in the U.S. political arena in light of the presence of a large number of politicians who have advanced in age and gained a lot of power within their parties.”

“It’s more salient now than it ever has been before, and I think it’s clearly because politicians are older than they ever had been before,” Kevin Munger, a political science professor at Penn State University, said in an interview with ABC News.

In turn, activist Omar Taha explained in a statement to Al-Estiklal that running the U.S. through leaders suffering from symptoms of aging would have a negative impact on the future and status of the country.

He pointed out that the U.S. Senate is the most privileged nursing home in the country, calling for the need to conduct a mental competency test for politicians over the age of 75.

 

Biggest Vulnerabilities

Looking at U.S. presidents since the early 1970s, after Richard Nixon’s resignation, the chances of the presidency tend to go to the elderly, as is the case with Gerald Ford, then Jimmy Carter, through Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, all the way to Donald Trump, then Joe Biden, which raises a profound question: “Do Americans prefer the elderly over the young in the presidential seat?”

The interesting answer was found in a lengthy investigation by The Atlantic magazine, published in June 2020, which revealed that the U.S. presidential candidates have become so elderly due to the fact that the U.S. people in general are elderly.

The proportion of elderly people in U.S. society is increasing, and they work until advanced stages of life. The population over the age of 65 is expected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million in 2060.

By 2026, more than one in four men over 65 will still be working, according to projections from the Population Reference Bureau.

The magazine revealed that voters over the age of 65 often go to the polls more than young voters, while political science research has found that voters usually prefer candidates closest to them in terms of age.

Political experience can be added to the series of justifications for choosing elderly presidents, especially after Americans woke up to disasters that befell the U.S.’ global standing — most notably the two disastrous wars that destroyed the economic situation and the American global reputation (the Afghanistan War in 2001 and the Iraq War in 2003) under the leadership of George W. Bush.

However, the lack of honesty and focus has recently become one of the reasons for the decline in voters’ confidence in their leaders, which was confirmed by a poll conducted by Gallup last year, where 60% of voters said that they do not trust the government’s ability to deal with local problems.

As for the 2024 presidential race candidates, a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey found that 77% of U.S. adults said Biden is too old to be effective for another term.

In comparison, roughly half of U.S. adults (51%) said they thought Trump was too old to serve as president.

Even a majority of Democrats (69%) expressed concern about Biden’s age, although a vast majority (88%) said they would still probably support him if he’s the nominee.

Biden’s age is the target of 2024 GOP candidates, and his missteps and awkward moments have been routinely mocked on Fox News.

Overall, about two-thirds of adults in the U.S. support setting an age ceiling for presidential candidates and members of Congress, in addition to setting a mandatory retirement age for judges.

67% of those surveyed support requiring Supreme Court judges to retire at a certain age, and 68% support setting maximum age limits for candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate, while 66% support imposing maximum limits on the age of presidential candidates.