NOS News•today, 5:11 PM
Editor Bureau Washington
Editor Bureau Washington
US President Joe Biden celebrates his 81st birthday today, amid his campaign for a second presidential term in 2024. His age is his Achilles heel in the election race. Nearly three-quarters of Americans think Biden is too old for the presidency, polls show.
Biden is three years older than his main Republican opponent, Donald Trump (78). Despite that relatively small age difference, Americans appear to be more concerned about Biden’s age. Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley responds cleverly to this: she advocates measures such as term limits and competency tests for politicians over the age of 75. More than three-quarters of the population agrees with such measures.
Biden’s age is also the target of numerous memes and comedians. Comedy group Capitol Comedy in the state of Maryland, for example, has an entire show devoted to jokes about the elderly president. Starring as Biden, actor Trevor Keyfauver opens the show with the song How to Keep My Brain Alive. After a performance, Keyfauver talks about personifying the president. “Biden is a person who is grateful to be personified. He makes constant blunders and is unintentionally comical,” he says.
Visitors can laugh at the jokes, but also see the seriousness of the matter. A visitor says during the break that “politicians should also give a chance to young talent, instead of keeping power until they are old.”
Americans increasingly speak of a so-called gerontocracy, a country governed by the elderly. The average age in the Senate is now 64 years old and health ailments of older members of Congress are becoming increasingly visible, even in front of the cameras. This summer, Senator Mitch McConnell (81) fell completely silent twice during press conferences. Before her death in September, the very elderly Senator Dianne Feinstein was regularly confused and therefore missed important votes.
For the time being, old age does not seem to be a reason for American politicians to resign. For example, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (83) does not want to think about her retirement yet; she will be on the Democratic ballot again next year.
The cover of New Yorker magazine last month with Trump, McConnell, Pelosi and Biden:
Among the Republicans, younger politicians are joining the race for president, such as Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley. Among the Democrats, there are no younger candidates who present themselves as an alternative to Biden. Molly Reynolds, an expert at the nonprofit public administration organization Brookings Institution, cites a number of reasons for this. “Biden has the name recognition, he has proven he can take on Trump and he has fifty years of experience.”
That experience often translates into the ability to raise a lot of money for campaigns. That is an important aspect of American politics. Reynolds: “Politicians protect their position of power by receiving a lot of donations. That’s what makes people like McConnell and Pelosi so powerful: they are extremely successful at fundraising.”
Younger politicians therefore have to compete with an old guard who has much more money in their coffers, she explains. Moreover, it is an unwritten rule not to run a presidential campaign against an incumbent party member. But even among Democrats, concerns are growing because of Biden’s age. David Axelrod, an adviser to Democratic former President Obama, sees Biden’s age as one of the biggest obstacles to a possible re-election.
Party colleague Simon Rosenberg remains loyal to Biden. Rosenberg was a strategist for the Democrats for thirty years and had considerable influence on the party’s campaigning. According to him, America needs an older leader now: “The disadvantages of Biden’s age are obvious. But precisely because of his years of experience and age, he has been able to implement ten years of legislation in two years.”
Freedom of choice
According to him, restrictions, such as an age limit for politicians, hinder voters’ freedom of choice. Rosenberg: “People choose who they want, even if they are older leaders. Taking away that choice would contradict the way American democracy works.”
Still, Rosenberg is optimistic about the future. “There will be a huge political shift in the coming years. Both parties will eventually have to provide space for young leaders. This process is already underway, but not as quickly as some would like.”