Political Ageism

I keep seeing newspaper columnists and others tut-tutting about Joe Biden’s age. Despite the fact that he’s doing a good job – better than I expected even if he isn’t doing some of the things I consider important – some suggest he shouldn’t run again.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are apparently planning to nominate the failed former occupant of the White House who tried to hold onto his job despite losing an election, a grifter who is under indictment for multiple crimes, someone who has proved that he is incapable of doing the job by the complete mess he made of it.

By the way, that con man is only three years younger than Biden, which certainly makes him no spring chicken. If anyone was raising the age question seriously, they’d be discussing it in reference to both men.

As someone a little, but not a lot, younger than both of them, I am aware that older people are at greater risk of health conditions that can keep them from doing a job than younger ones. But that is far from my first consideration when it comes to evaluating someone who is running for office.

I’ve never been a fan of maximum ages for jobs. If you can still do the job mentally and physically, why should you be forced to stop?

I do suspect that one reason people use age as a proxy there is that it’s messy to determine whether someone is still capable of doing work if you have to evaluate them. Plus there’s still plenty of ableism out there, plenty of efforts to push someone aside because they are disabled in some way.

Old people are likely to have accumulated some health conditions. My partner keeps telling me that we’re going to reach a point where we spend all day taking medications, doing physical therapy exercises, and making doctor appointments. He’s joking, but it is true that older people can’t ignore their health the way we did when we were young.

Here are some questions to ask about politicians with health issues:

  • Can they do their job around it?
  • If they can’t, will they be able to once they’ve had treatment?
  • Are there reasonable accommodations that will make it possible for them to do their work?

Based on what I can tell about Senators Feinstein and McConnell, my answers to those questions suggest that both of them should retire.

Joe Biden’s doing fine.

In fact, as someone who has paid too much attention to politics for too many years, I’m pretty sure that Biden is a much better president now than he would have been 30 years ago when he first started running for the job.

Now there are those who think we have too many old people in power. There’s a lot of truth in that. More importantly, those powerful politicians are mostly old white people with a lot of money making policy that affects an awful lot of people who don’t fit those characteristics.

I’d love to see a lot more young people in political office. I’d also like to see a lot more women, a lot more people of color, a lot more people who recognize what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck.

But more than any of that, I’d like to see the United States continue to work at being a democracy.

The idea that a man who tried to undermine our democracy is being taken seriously as a political candidate appalls me to the depth of my being. Every article on the Republican process of choosing a candidate should point out what a disaster that would be.

That’s a great deal more important than how old any candidate is.

We’re apparently headed for another one of those “most important election in our lifetime” political seasons. It would really be nice if this time we got it right enough that we could go back to just having ordinary elections.

But I’ll settle for “Biden’s too old” not becoming the “but her emails” of 2024.

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