“Too old to be president,” Take Umpteen

Wondering how to respond when people equate a political candidate’s age with their fitness for office? You’ll find plenty of answers in “Biden is now America’s first octogenarian president. Here’s what that means,” which appeared in Salon today. The writer reached out to experts like physician Louise Aronson and demographer Jay Olshansky, who warned against ageism. I called out ableism: “It’s appalling to mock Biden for a stutter he has worked to overcome his entire life. And it’s disgusting to make fun of him for falling off a bike. It’s commendable that he rides a bike and stays physically fit.”

Ageism and ableism rear their ugly heads every electoral cycle. The lead-up to the 2022 mid-term elections featured an outbreak of major media stories that blamed “gerontocracy” for our broken democratic system. The “Take Umpteen” in the title of this post refers to “Here we go again with ‘too old to be president,” written when “old guy” Bernie Sanders was on the campaign trail. I said it then, I said it to Salon, and I’ll say it again:

Generalizations about the capacities of older people are no more acceptable than racial or gender stereotypes. Period.

The country’s first octogenarian president is considering running against someone only slightly younger. It’s bringing the haters out. To challenge their ageism and ableism, we need expert evidence. I’m grateful to Salon article for marshalling so much of it for today’s article. “Does age matter?” from the International Council on Active Aging is another good resource. So is this blog.

No matter what candidate is under scrutiny, the issue is a political system that prioritizes corporate interests—not the age of the wealthy men who benefit most. The issue is a culture that stigmatizes disability (see this post about Senator Diane Feinstein)—not the age at which we encounter it. The issue is capacity—not age.

2 thoughts on ““Too old to be president,” Take Umpteen

  1. Related but slightly off-topic: As we approach the December 7 deadline for changing our Medicare supplemental coverage provider, there are a number of truly awful commercials featuring angry, wizened older women acting like brainless nincompoops. Add to this the shocking number of ageist comments that no less than my comedic idol Stephen Colbert has uttered in just the last week. You said it well, Ashton, when you long ago pointed out that the last group that it’s still apparently OK to ridicule is older people.

    1. You are so right. What kind of marketing strategy is is it that insults the very people you are trying to get to buy your product? That idiotic, foolish character,Martha, is insufferable. And Colbert. Yeah, I love him but his ageist jokes are wearing on me big time.

      On topic–I am STILL astounded at the utter gall and blatant ageism of “The Squad” in 2016 who yammered on and on that they or some other “new blood” with NO experience should have been elected Speaker of House. They objected that Pelosi had been in power so long and that she was older. In a crisis–and DJT’s presidency was a crisis—experience and wisdom outranks inexperienced “new blood” every time. She did a a phenomenal job and the country was lucky to have had her as SoH during that time.

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