Presidential politics: 60 is the new 35

It has been said that 50 is the new 30; 60 is the new 40; 70 is the new 50.  What, then, is 35? 

It’s the constitutional age requirement to serve as president of the United States.  Since the framers’ 35 would be much older today when adjusted for longer lifespans, it’s too young.

Modern medical methods have revolutionized our holistic well-being and make a mockery of traditional age categorizations.  For example, a new study proclaims that 60 is the new “middle age,” whereas 200 years ago, it would have been considered very old.  At our nation’s founding, the average life expectancy at birth for men was about 40, though our first presidents actually lived long past that age and were even elected well after the age of 35. 

Youth is celebrated in our culture; nevertheless, maturity is generally respected in presidential politics.  After Walter Mondale made an issue of Reagan’s age in the 1984 campaign, Reagan endeared himself to voters by saying he “will not exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”  Reagan subjected the 56-year-old liberal to a veritable landslide, and subsequent presidential campaigns have emphasized their candidates’ wisdom, judgment, and experience.  All attributes forged and refined with time in the crucible of life’s harsh vicissitudes.

JFK was the youngest person elected president, but at least he served heroically, receiving a Purple Heart for service in WWII; moreover, he came from a political family and was groomed with a sense of noblesse oblige.  Bill Clinton (46) and Obama (47) are also in the top five youngest elected presidents.  Getting the picture?

This table presents survey results conducted by various organizations that rank the success of our presidents.  If you sort ascending on the last column – Freq. of Pos. – you will see that the top quartile of successful presidents as averages of the individual surveys.  Only Theodore Roosevelt was under 50 years of age.  Noteworthy is that the next youngest presidents (JFK, Clinton, Grant, Cleveland, Pierce, Garfield, Polk) were ranked in the lower three quartiles.

Obama is not on the chart yet, but he deserves to be plonked in the lowest quartile.  With his legacy in tatters, I’d be surprised if even liberal historians considered him successful.  His juvenile ego and spitefulness have provoked domestic division, and international hotspots have been inflamed by his wobbly behavior and unsophisticated notions about leading from behind.   Let’s face it: his 47 would likely be comparable to 17 back in the day.

Age doesn’t guarantee wisdom, and dyed-in-the-wool liberals may not have an epiphany during their senior years, but at least life will have more time to mollify their zealotry.  Witness “Uncle Joe” Biden, a bit nutty due to his liberal disease, but genial and capable of magnanimity while reaching across the aisle.  In fact, during the recent vote to certify the Electoral College results, he chastised an interrupting, intemperate liberal, admonishing Pramila Jayapal that “it is over!”  Members in the chamber chuckled.

The principles of freedom and emphasis of individual rights over the caprice of leviathan as embedded in our founding documents are inspirational and, in accord with the human spirit, timeless.  But the age requirement to become president may be slightly less sacrosanct.  Sixty is not only the new “middle age”; it’s also the new 35.