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Too old to run?

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6th December 2023

Too old to run?

Given the controversy over US President Joe Biden’s decision to run for President again in 2024…should there be an age limit for politicians?

It might sound like an extreme idea but recent polling by YouGov found that more than half of Americans support a maximum age limit for elected officials.

Additionally, ¾ of Americans said that Biden, who will turn 81 on November 20th, was too old for a second presidential term. These fears around Biden’s age appear to be hurting the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining the US Presidency next year.

Return of the Donald?

Biden beat Trump in 2020 by five million votes and most crucial to this result was his victories in the ‘swing states’, which latest polls suggest he now appears to be losing. Narrow gains for Biden in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were instrumental in his 2020 win.

However, despite the fact that Trump is actually only four years younger than Biden, his manic energy appears to have convinced supporters that he is more physically and mentally fit for the role than Biden.

Perception is more important than reality in politics!

Sleepy Joe?

Biden has had many gaffes in his first term which have not helped the ‘Sleepy Joe’ allegations levelled by his opponents.

The office of POTUS is one of the most physically and mentally challenging jobs in the world, with past presidents demonstrably aged by the role. Therefore, it is understandable that people would have concerns about the risks an octogenarian President presents to the USA and the world more generally.

The issue of age isn’t a partisan one either- recent videos appearing to show the 81 year old Republican Party Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell struggling to respond during a press conference went viral over social media, sparking a debate over the proportion of important political figures in the US who are well past the standard retirement age.

Where are all the young people?

Encouraging young people into politics is vital for a functioning society and oftentimes young people seem more politically engaged than ever, especially on social media.

Would imposing an age limit on older politicians help encourage young people into politics?

Incumbents are always at an electoral advantage, and this has been found to discourage young and female potential representatives.

There are mandatory retirement ages for other jobs. Many young people ask how fair it is for people to make rules when they will never have to see the consequences?

If not Biden, who?

Sometimes these politicians persevere because they fear there is no one else to do the job or that their replacement may be more politically extreme.

In Biden’s case, there appears to be no obvious replacement, which is probably why the oldest President in US history has decided to run for office again.

Usually, you would look to the Vice President in such a situation but Kamala Harris, despite being both the first female VP and the first POC VP in the history of the United States, appears to have made little impact in her first term.

In May of this year, OddsChecker had Kamala Harris as favourite to be the next President, with Biden following behind and then Trump.

However, current odds have Trump as the favourite, with Biden at number two and Harris all the way down in eighth position, behind former First Lady Michelle Obama.

There also seems to be no other high-profile Democrat who could take up the role, especially not so close to the campaign.

The campaigns of independents Robert F. Kennedy Jr and left-wing campaigner and academic Cornel West will likely complicate the Democratic run.

There is something to be said for bowing out gracefully…

But with people living longer than ever and therefore working for longer as pension ages increase, it is understandable that our politicians would start to get older.

We will have to wait until November 2024 to see if the idea of an 86 year old finishing out a second term as President is too much for the American electorate.

By Cate Bateson

Photo credit: New York Post