Written by Ben Kairouz
Edited by Queenie Lin and Annika Lilja
The question of age in the context of the presidency is a multifaceted issue that merits a nuanced examination. When considering age as an important factor in presidential leadership, we must address two key aspects: the challenges posed by older presidents like former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden and the potential impact of younger presidential candidates.
The Challenges of Older Presidents
1. Generational Disconnect: One of the primary concerns with older presidents is the potential disconnect from younger generations. As society evolves, the priorities and perspectives of younger individuals often shift, sometimes substantially. Older leaders may struggle to resonate with these changing attitudes, particularly on issues like technology, climate change, and social justice. This generational gap can lead to policies that do not adequately address the concerns of younger citizens.
2. Health and Stamina: The rigors of the presidency are immense, and older presidents may face challenges in terms of health and stamina. While age does not automatically equate to poor health, the risk of health issues does increase with age. The demanding nature of the presidency requires a leader who can endure long hours and high stress without their judgment being impaired. One great example of this was US Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, struggling to respond to media questions. After being asked about potentially running for office again, Mr. McConnell froze completely and couldn’t say a word. In another instance he froze for almost twenty-five seconds when giving his remarks at a press conference. Senator McConnell’s office attributed both of these incidents to him being momentarily light headed.
3. Perspective and Flexibility: There's a risk that older presidents might rely on outdated approaches to problem-solving. In a rapidly changing world, adaptability and openness to new ideas are crucial. Younger leaders are often perceived as more adaptable and innovative.
The Impact of Young Presidential Candidates
1. Fresh Perspectives: Younger candidates can bring fresh perspectives to politics. They are often more attuned to current social, economic, and technological trends, enabling them to propose forward-thinking policies that resonate with a broad spectrum of the electorate. For example, younger candidates are informed on the newest social media or “trends” that can help them connect with the younger generation.
2. Representation of Youth Interests: Younger candidates are in a better position to understand and represent the interests of the younger generation. They can champion issues like climate change, education reform, and technological innovation with a sense of urgency and authenticity.
3. Energizing the Electorate: Younger candidates often have the ability to energize the electorate, particularly younger voters. Their candidacies can increase political engagement, fostering a more inclusive and dynamic political process. Younger candidates often have more energy and vibrancy to their campaigns helping them reach a younger demographic.
4. Long-term Vision: Younger leaders may be more inclined to implement policies with a long-term vision, considering the impact on future generations. Their approach to governance might prioritize sustainability and innovation, recognizing the rapid pace of change in the global landscape. As younger candidates have more life ahead of them, they can plan with future goals in mind that older candidates might not account for.
The debate over the ideal age for a president is complex and subjective. While older presidents bring experience and wisdom, they may face challenges in relating to younger generations and adapting to rapid societal changes. On the other hand, younger candidates offer fresh perspectives and a closer alignment with the priorities of the younger electorate. Ultimately, the effectiveness of a president should be judged by their ability to lead, innovate, and respond to the needs of all citizens, regardless of age. The diversity of age in presidential candidates enriches the democratic process, ensuring a range of viewpoints and experiences are represented at the highest level of government.