‘Too Old’ To Be President

Before starting, a confession: With each passing year, I am less amused by jokes about old people and their many frailties.

Now, let’s think about a primary critique of the reelection of Joe Biden as U.S. president, which is that he would be 82 years old. If he were the winner against an opponent who will be 78 in June, Biden would be the oldest man to occupy the White House.

The very fact that the ages of the candidates are considered a major issue reveals how much influence Donald Trump has had in setting the media agenda in his country.

Although in reality the gerontocracy has been a constant issue throughout history, it has been so, above all, in times of instability. That is not taking into account that in the past decade in the 10 most populous countries in the world, the number of leaders 70 years old or older has risen from one to eight.

Probably the most relevant factor about this issue is the consideration that the median life expectancy in the U.S. today is 79 years and three months, whereas a century earlier it was 58 years and six months. In other words, being old in a country of old people is not the same as being old in a country of youngsters.

The U.S. has almost 60 million people in the 65-year-old or older age group, which represents 17.3% of the population. Of these, almost 80% are registered to vote; they are the segment with the highest rate of voter participation. Said in another way, in an election with between 120 and 150 million votes, older adults will be the primary driving force in the election.

For the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, the U.S. represents the great successes and failures above all of a large generation: the Baby Boomers, the members of which were born between 1945 and 1964. As of this year, all of them are older than 60.

In this context, Biden vs. Trump 2.0 is shaping up as the battle that could define the role of the U.S. toward the middle of the 21st century.

Reduced — because of maliciousness or stupidity — to some kind of trivia about hormone levels and/or how the two figures are managing their emotions and personal memories, the election campaign is to a great extent about the extreme contrast on issues like abortion, immigration, Putin … And perhaps the main difference is the transition toward a “sustainable economy” that will bring the “age of hydrocarbons” to an end.

The devil we know, or worse, that we acknowledge: The dilemma of Nov. 5 could well be — Biden says — the final defense of a democracy (imperfect enough, to be sure) against the imperial ambitions of the oligarchies, or — according to Trump — “I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent World War III” (talking about “senior moments”).

It will be well into the night of that first Tuesday in November by the time we know. That’s, of course, if God is willing.

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