In 1980, Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s opponents tried to use his age against him. He
Joe Biden is 80, half a generation older than Reagan was in 1980. The man 45 calls “Sleepy Joe” was having a hard time staying awake in Maui this last week. In remarks widely aired, he
wrestled his intended word tragedy into “travedy” – thankfully, not travesty -- before giving up
on reciting the sentence in his prepared remarks.
The Democrats may well lose the 2024 election on the basis of age (or senility, if you wish), if
Biden/Harris is the ticket. That’s not a dirty secret. Biden routinely mumbles and clips words in his prepared remarks, while not steady on his feet, either.
Frequent columnist Karl Rove recently opined in The Wall Street Journal about the 2024
election: “Americans may think we can do better for President than two men who’ll be a
combined 160 years old by the time we vote next year.” Yep, count me in.
Polling this April and June certainly indicates such. NBC’s April 18 poll found 70 percent of
Americans believe Biden “should not run for President,” while 60 percent think Trump
shouldn’t. Hefty numbers of respondents view each candidate “very negative.”
Rove, who helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads, sees evident
desire for a generational shift.
In Congress, ranking Senate Democrat Dianne Feinstein and House Republican Mitch McConnell
are now the poster “kids” for making laws well past their golden days -- and their full faculties.
A month ago, Mitch went into a 20-second “pause,” or freeze, while giving remarks at a news
conference. Just two days ago, McConnell repeated the startling “pause.” In both cases, he was rescued to safety by his dutiful staff.
There’s something of a paradox when it comes to age in the U.S. Congress: each house this
year swore in its youngest class in history (18 freshman members under age 40 in both
chambers), while the overall median age in the House and Senate ticked up to 59 – now one of
the oldest in history.
At 81, Kentucky’s McConnell is the fourth-oldest Senator and one of more than two-dozen who
come from the Silent Generation, born between the late 1920s and the end of World War II. He
is helping prop up the highest median age on record – 65 -- among the Senate’s 100 elected
members. Joe Biden is the first President elected from the Silent Generation.
California Sen. Feinstein, at 90, is the oldest and has experienced severe health complications
this year. A day after McConnell’s first “moment,” she appeared confused when called upon to cast
a vote during a committee hearing, having to be nudged by the chairperson to say “aye.”
There’s some encouraging news. The median age of newcomers to the current 118 th Congress
dropped to 46.3, down from 51.1 in the prior Congress. That said, Millennials account for just
12 percent of lawmakers in the Capitol. And Gen Z is represented by a single member.
Most legislators, expectedly, are from the Baby Boomer and Generation X demographic
cohorts. Of course, once elected in, many of these become lifers and are able to grow old in
place, free of pesky term limits.
The youthfulness, energy, hopefulness and clarity of John Kennedy and Barack Obama captured
Americans at historic moments in time. We lack such candidates today, turned off like so many
The current threat poses opportunity, Rove concludes: “Our nation is deeply divided and angry;
it faces tremendous challenges at home and dangers abroad. These are best confronted by
energetic new leadership. Whichever party figures this out will have the upper hand next year.”
If not, when it comes to Election 2024, we’ll again be picking our poison.