Should We Care About Presidential Age?
tags: politics,presidential history,2020 Election,campaigns
Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015). A paperback edition is now available.
In 2020, America may decide to elect the oldest first term President in its history. Three Democratic candidates will be older than Donald Trump was on Inauguration Day in 2017 and Ronald Reagan was on Inauguration Day in 1981.
As I’ve written before, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will be 79 years and 4 months old by Inauguration Day in 2021 and former Vice President Joe Biden will be 78 years and two months old. Sanders would be older for his first term than Donald Trump would be at the end of a second term, and Joe Biden would be just three months younger at the beginning of his first term than Trump would be at the end of a second.
Age seems even more important after Sanders suffered a heart attack earlier this month. Sanders also had stents put in his heart. In his debate performances and campaign trail appearances, Biden has also showed signs of aging. His mental acuity has seemed off at times and his ideas seem to hearken back to the past rather than the future.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would be 71 years and 5 months at inauguration, making her the third potential President who would be older than Donald Trump was in January 2017 by a full year. Warren would be in her late 70s by the end of a second term in the Oval Office.
Historically, few world leaders have served in their 80s. Most famously, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was 81 years old when he left office in 1955 and he suffered two strokes before he resigned. West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was 87 when he left office in 1963. Only Adenauer was older than Sanders or Biden would be at the end of a second term in the Presidency in January 2029.
Of course, there have been Kings and Emperors who were in office beyond the age of 80. Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain is 93. Japanese Emperor Akihito was 85 when he retired earlier this year. Several Popes have reached their 80s in office, including Pope John Paul II who died at age 84; Pope Benedict XVI, who retired at age 85; and the present Pope Francis is 82. But none of these leaders have or had the stress level and burdens of office of an American President.
Ronald Reagan seemed to be declining mentally in his second term. Many believe Trump has mental issues that may be related to age. One has to be concerned that Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden reaching their 80s early in their first term might be dangerous in theory for the nation. Since Warren would be in her mid-70s at the end of the first term, one has to be similarly concerned.
So the issue of age cannot be ignored and it is clear that if Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, or Elizabeth Warren are nominated and elected President in 2020, it is essential to have a much younger, more vibrant and energetic Vice Presidential running mate ready to take the helm in any emergency situation that might arise.
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