Age and the current political climate

Before the recent opioid drug crisis dampened the growth of U.S. life expectancy, Americans were living an average of 1.5 to 2 years longer with each passing decade.

Today, the average American lives about 78.5 years which is roughly 8 years longer than the average American lived in 1970.

Longer lifespans have prompted retirement and other benefit markers to inch up along with life expectancy.

When I was young, my sister and I had a self-appointed adopted grandmother. This lady was a widow from our church whom my parents drove to evening services when darkness prevented her from driving.

She insisted on being called “Grannie.” My sister and I indulged her mainly because we didn’t want to face her wrath for non-compliance.

Grannie was the most opinionated woman I had ever met. She had a comment – usually negative – on virtually any topic, from the length of my pant leg to the length of the preacher’s sermon.

Our family never invited Grannie to our house because Mom couldn’t bear the thought of her housekeeping critiques.

Grannie was difficult to get along with. I wonder how much more challenging she would have been if she had lived five or ten years longer. Probably a lot.

For most people, filters come down with age. Some people get kinder as they age; most seem to get more cantankerous. They don’t as much. They’ll tear up a speech on national television immediately after it was given…by the president of the United States.

It’s well-accepted that our politics are more polarizing than ever. I wonder if age has anything to do with it.

The aforementioned speech ripper, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, turns 80 this month. Most of the major Democrat candidates for president are septuagenarians: Elizabeth Warren (70), Joe Biden (77), Bernie Sanders (78) and Mike Bloomberg (78). Their debates are a circus of squabbles.

Of course, President Donald Trump, 73, is prone to name-calling (“Sleepy Joe,” “Mini Mike”) and other childish behaviors.

His sardonic commentary both on Twitter and at the bully pulpit is the stuff previously reserved for pundits and comedians. It’s not generally conducive for healthy policymaking, or raising kids.

Years of experience can bring wisdom, and many of Trump’s presidential actions have been good for our country (Supreme Court appointees, tax cuts, regulatory reform, etc.). Our beloved President Ronald Reagan served a majority of his two terms while in his seventies.

But the circle of life has a way of returning aged adults to childish forms as their days wind down. Humans start in strollers and end wheelchairs. We start and end with feeding and bathing assistance.

Which begs the question…

The U.S. Constitution provides age minimums for the Presidency (35), the Senate (30) and Congress (25). Do we also need age maximums?

Many corporate boards have age limits. They usually are set at 72 or 75 according to a Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

At age 70, U.S. citizens must start collecting Social Security. At age 70.5, retirement accountholders must start taking distributions.

Given the demographic trends of our society, age discrimination is a legitimate concern. We must prevent it at all cost.

But it shouldn’t stop us from asking, “What are appropriate age limits for federal officeholders and would it help our political climate if we had them?”

 

Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

1 Response to “Age and the current political climate”


  1. 1 jessestroup March 5, 2020 at 10:18

    Kevin, This is a very good piece of journalism (unbiased repotting both sides of an issue). You made a significant point about the septuagenarians and had the courage to raise a significant question. I am proud of you, son-in-law. May you always go with God. Jesse

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