Just about a year ago, a candidate for local office visited Drinking Liberally to present a case for being elected over the long term incumbent. One of the knocks on the incumbent was the officeholder’s age put him out of touch with the district. Looking around the room at all of the gray hair and bald heads…many whose support at the doors, on the phones, and with contributions the candidate was hoping to gain…and knowing the incumbent was younger than myself…I commented to the candidate, that although I would accept the position that the incumbent was out of touch with the district and the area…I wouldn’t suggest attributing that to age. Instead of picking up on my hint, the candidate doubled down on the age theme. That candidate did not win and will not garner my support in any future attempts at elected office.
Just following the November 6th Presidential election, a rather premature Facebook discussion posited the question about potential Democratic candidates in 2016. Of course current favorite, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was mentioned. One of my progressive friends suggested that in 2016, Ms. Clinton would be 69 years old…too old to run for president. Senator John McCain was 72 when he was nominated at the 2008 Republican National Convention…and President Reagan was 69 when he started his first term as President (But of course they were Republicans, so we can discount that). So despite the recent lionization of former US Congressman David Obey, who was already over 69 during the protests in Madison or the reverence shown for State Senator Fred Risser who is well into his 80s, Ms. Clinton at 69 would be too old to be President. When I brought up the ‘elder’ statesmen Risser and Obey, I was reminded that the job of President is far more stressful and important than legislative positions. Maybe so…but I would suggest that the second most stressful job in US government…and one that is extremely taxing physically because of the continual world travel involved…is US Secretary of State…which by all accounts Ms. Clinton has filled with energy, grace, and diplomacy! And I think she could work circles around many of her far younger critics.
Is age one way of gauging a candidates fitness for office…well yes…I suppose it comes into play. But we should never dismiss out of hand a fully qualified candidate simply based on when they were born!