As America’s political gerontocracy clings to power, who will tell them to step aside?

As America’s political gerontocracy clings to power, who will tell them to step aside?

The New York Times reports:

After a series of troubling moments this week, an uncomfortable question has become unavoidable, leaving voters, strategists and even politicians themselves wondering: Just how old is too old to serve in public office?

For years, like so many children of aging parents across America, politicians and their advisers in Washington tried to skirt that difficult conversation, wrapping concerns about their octogenarian leaders in a cone of silence. The omertà was enabled by the traditions of a city that arms public figures with a battalion of aides, who manage nearly all of their professional and personal lives.

“I don’t know what the magic number is, but I do think that as a general rule, my goodness, when you get into the 80s, it’s time to think about a little relaxation,” said Trent Lott, 81, a former Senate majority leader who retired at the spry age of 67 to start his own lobbying firm. “The problem is, you get elected to a six-year term, you’re in pretty good shape, but four years later you may not be so good.”

Two closely scrutinized episodes this week thrust questions about aging with dignity in public office out of the halls of Congress and into the national conversation.

On Wednesday, video of Senator Mitch McConnell, 81, freezing for 20 seconds in front of television cameras reverberated across the internet and newscasts. Less than 24 hours later, another clip surfaced of Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, appearing confused when asked to vote in committee.

A political discussion on the issue of age has been building for months, as the country faces the possibility of a presidential contest between the oldest candidates in American history. President Biden, 80, already the oldest president to sit in the White House, is vying for a second term, and Donald J. Trump, 77, is leading the Republican primary race.

“When I say we need to pass the baton to younger generations, I’m not talking about youthful generations,” said Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, 54, the only Democrat in Congress to say that Ms. Feinstein should step down and that Mr. Biden should not seek re-election. “I’m talking about simply a reasonably less aged generation.” [Continue reading…]

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