The world is divided between cultures that esteem older people for their wisdom and experience vs. those that denigrate aging as a slow, burdensome decline to oblivion. Weirdly, despite zero appealing “youngsters” willing to challenge an incumbent president, two-thirds of Democrats want someone else. Are these grumblers terrified the guy running the show will keel over – or freeze in front of a camera? In the end all that matters is performance, not fear-driven, crystal ball speculations. At any age, I’d take Biden over misfits Trump, McConnell, DeSantis, Cruz, or Hawley. Forget the doddering ancients.
Not only that, but listen to this absurd poll: 77% of Americans want maximum age limits for all elected officials. Talk about age discrimination! Who draws that line? Most ludicrous of all, a recent Wall Street Journal poll alleged that 60% think Biden lacks the mental acuity to be president (vs. 49% for Trump!). Such folly decimates confidence in majority rule. On his worst day, Biden runs a functional, scandal-free White House that makes Trump’s look like a farcical, insane asylum. Another contradictory poll posits that 60% of Americans think Trump should not run at all.
Disrespect, however, doesn’t reflect Dem disapproval of Biden legislation or policy positions, all centrist party favorites. Nor could any rational mind question Biden’s high achievement scorecard – busting all expectations. Leftists naturally oppose Democratic centrism, pissed when Biden juices militarism or oil drilling, frustrated over passivity towards the Senate filibuster, the Electoral College, or the corrupt Supreme Court. Reality check: Biden was never a pushy systemic reformer, renowned as incrementalism personified. Not being a progressive, however, could blunt worse, a Manchin, Sinema, or RFK, Jr.
Self-loathing R Us
Bitching about incumbent presidents fits the restless American psyche, disturbed by the country’s direction or actual decisions made. The best recent arguments against electing green youngsters – count ‘em: Dubya and Bill Clinton – how much disaster could have been offset if either brought national experience to the game. Obama, despite modest state and federal training, endured a costly, endless learning curve (vs. none for Biden). Thus the folly of Dems imagining a white-horsed phantom capable of matching the winning Biden constituency. Might as well dream Uncle Joe morphs into Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Or that Trump isn’t a guilty, word-salad bozo.
So, by what bizarre logic do we reject an admirable, empathetic, far more truly “populist” politician who’s lived long enough to know himself, his limits, and honed his leadership skills? Of course equally aged yet ineducable Trump types disintegrate as they age (from a low bar). So age per se – vs. coherence, competence, compassion, or legislative talents – should be down the list. Has Biden notably changed in the last year, and when was he ever silky smooth or a charismatic inspiration? Only a fool refuses to admit he’s a better president than V.P. That he keeps the government doors open and working, with none of the repugnant Trump drama, is no small achievement during maddeningly unsettled times.
Older cultures shame ours
In global terms, provincial Americans shudder against far older cultures that revere age and experience, aligned with respect for family lineages. China, Japan, and Korea (echoing Confucian values), many in Africa (and African-Americans), Muslim cultures, Native Americans, plus Greece (both ancient and modern) revere noble patriarchs and matriarchs. Unless the older mind is gone, learning from failure is a testament to time on the job. The ever-infantile Trump models the very opposite, doubling down on blunders.
Finally and recently, western countries, though still offended by aging, disease, and death, rightly supply senior pensions, health care and privileges. Surviving a long life either kills you or makes you better. As Tom Lehrer once joked, when Mozart was his age, he’d been dead for decades. Despite our differences, I gained immensely from my (then aged) savvy father and shrewd grandmother, still sharp into her 80s. The counsel of smart, serene oldsters takes the long view, thus many of us prefer the “fuddy-duddy” calmness of grandparents over anxious, judgmental parents.
With the media’s unrelenting youth (athletic, thinness, good looks and efficiency) fetishes, America rejects longevity, stupidly discriminating against those no longer desperately striving upwards. To rephrase Gore Vidal, anyone desperate to be president should be automatically disqualified. What stable philosopher king would seek out this grueling, thankless job? Everyone (including Biden) favors having more energy but it is what it is. Recall, this is the country where nutcase Spanish explorers first sought the Fountain of Youth. Instead, what counts is the Fountain of Age as both attainable and infinitely more valuable.
Whatever the age, veterans immune from primitive biases (religious, family, geographic, class, orwealth) are less erratic, less prone to excesses, and far more serene when surviving disaster. Unteachable megalomaniacs like Trump or Giuliani were never at any age free of arrogant willfulness. What about younger GOP “leaders,” like DeSantis, Cruz and Hawley, among the worst demagogic voices plaguing the public forum? DeSantis, among others, perfectly satisfies H.L. Mencken’s insight, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Ageless democrats top any age fascists
In short, the biggest problems one has with Biden (or Trump for that matter) are not related to age. Anyone want Hunter Biden to replace his father? Or Trump, Jr. as propagandist? Look, admittedly the status quo stinks, and we need serious, systemic reforms (economic, military, environmental, governmental, electoral, judicial and immigration) to ward off more rightwing power grabs. Progressives welcome new charismatic, visionary leaders to take over, and there is a new crop a’coming. If youth conquers all, why isn’t Kamala Harris more popular? Right, because the prejudice of color and gender trumps the bugaboo of age.
If too much longevity is your hill to die on, why not back some green dolt like Vivek Ramaswamy? Never again should we elect a president who never held elected office, let alone is dishonesty personified. In comparison to competence, humanity, respect for science and expertise, age is a trivial matter. Only a fool makes decisions on his own dicey speculations to know the future, like the timing of losing your wits. As long as Biden methodically does the job, articulates humane goals, and knows how to manage an impossibly bizarre Congress, let’s banish the irrational tyranny of agism. Until there is a viable, electable alternative, (younger) Democrats should wake up and smell the reality.