Jun 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

American gerontocracy


From left: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The likeliest matchup for the 2024 election pits President Biden, who'll be 81, against former President Trump, who'll be 78.

Why it matters: Diversity and technology are making the workplace, home life and culture unrecognizable for many older leaders. That can leave geriatric leadership of government out of step with everyday life in America — and disconnected from the voters who give them power.

  • Washington is run by Biden, 79 … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82 … Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a comparatively youthful 71 … and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, age 80.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, running the U.S. pandemic response, is 81.

It's a global phenomenon: Pope Francis is 85. Prince Charles, Britain's next king, is 73.

  • And it's not just the top of the ticket. The average age of the Senate at the beginning of this Congress (last year) was 64.3 years — the oldest in history. Seven senators are in their 80s.
  • But Democrats now are privately debating whether Biden, already the oldest president, will be fit to run for reelection. At the end of a second term, he'd be 86.

David Axelrod, chief strategist for President Obama, told the New York Times for a story over the weekend about rising worries among top Democrats about Biden's age and tenacity:

  • "The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue."

People close to the president tell Axios that voters' qualms about age will be obviated by Biden being the only candidate who has beaten Trump.

  • But Axios' conversations show Biden confidants are acutely aware of the issue, and deeply worried about its power in a re-election race.

Josh Kraushaar of National Journal, who is joining Axios this summer as senior politics reporter, delved into the issue in a podcast episode, "Grumpy Old Men."

  • He found that in focus groups, being 86 at the end of a second term was the kind of issue that average voters talk about and care about.

Famed wise man David Gergen, 80, told Judy Woodruff last month on "PBS NewsHour": "I think people like Biden and Trump ought to both step back and leave open the door to younger people."

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