OPINION: America’s politicians are too old

Donald Trump is the oldest President ever elected, the Senate is at its oldest in history, and the Democratic nominees are predominantly septuagenarian — are politicians becoming too old?



Sanna Marin is the Prime Minister of Finland and the youngest head of state in the world — she may become an example of the competence provided by young leaders.

The Prime Minister of Finland is 34, the Prime Minister of Ukraine is 35, and potential Democratic nominee Pete Buttigieg is 37. Young world leaders are emerging in a world dominated by elderly statesmen.

Currently, the United States is led by President Donald Trump, the third leader born in the summer of 1946, after George W. Bush and Bill Clinton respectively. In a New York Times interview, Buttigieg stated this “means that one generation has been in charge for a very long time,” and though he’s prone to bureaucratic blunders, he’s absolutely correct. Even the other Democratic nominees are old: Elizabeth Warren (70), Bernie Sanders (78), have and Joe Biden (77). Baby boomers are 22.9% of the population (US Census) yet they make the majority in American politics.

First off, why does the age of our politicians matter?

Well, most of our Senators (averagely aged 63, the oldest Congress has been in history) being unaware of current technology has resulted in their being grossly ignorant of modern trends in the congressional hearings of Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, the CEOs of Facebook and Google respectively.

Secondly, many politicians are near or in the dangerous decade of their 70s, where cognitive functioning sharply declines (US National Library of Medicine), many old people especially losing the ability to absorb new information and apply it to solve problems or read situations — essentially meaning that old politicians can’t use modern solutions for modern problems.

And thirdly, we are in need for a breath of fresh air in Washington. The United States is an old democracy (the first fully fledged democracy) governed by an old government with an old constitution (the oldest single constitutional document of any government). The United States’ government, though its President has been called rash or even a “[total] crockpot” (Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina) by other world leaders, has seemingly been characterized by its old age.

However, many of America’s greatest leaders were young. The youngest President to ever come into office was Theodore Roosevelt, who was 42 when William McKinley’s assassination thrust him into the office where he crushed monopolies as the “trust-buster” and helped establish many pro-environmental policies, though he also became a face for American imperialism in Cuba. The youngest ever elected into office was John F. Kennedy at 43, whose presidency was remarkable for its intensifying of the Space Race and American morale being improved in the midst of incredibly volatile Soviet-American relations, especially concerning an attempted invasion in the Bay of Pigs.

George Washington was only 44 at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was only 33 when he wrote it. Alexander Hamilton was only 21 at the time!

Clearly, however, a revolutionist and a President are two different kinds of entities, one a manifestation of a movement’s bravado and courage of which can only be found in youth, but the ambition that comes with youth is what allowed many of the nation’s greatest movements to occur. Martin Luther King Jr. himself was 39 when he was assassinated, and his leading the Civil Rights Movement changed the entire nation tremendously more than many Presidents — many would sooner recall his face and name than that of an older President like Gerald Ford.

Obviously, we needn’t change the minimum age of 35 to be able to run, for there is credit due to the wisdom granted by experience. However, the trend of old Presidents, Presidents that have hit their 70s and are at risk of not just cognitive deterioration, but dozens of health complications that naturally come with age, must come to an end.

Donald Trump is the oldest President ever elected, and the oldest that was ever reelected, Ronald Reagan at 73, was described by his own son in his third year of office as “[uncharacteristically] tired and bewildered,”  in his book My Father at 100: A Memoir. 

Frankly, the dangers of an old world leader are laid out for us, the deterioration that comes with age can be seen at any retirement home, and the answer to the problem of Presidents with potential declining mental acuity is clear — younger leaders.