Perhaps it was the fact that the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1960) made up such a huge portion of the American population that the United States conveyed the energy and optimism of youth to the rest of the world. As the Baby Boomers went from adolescence to young adulthood and then to maturity, that energy and optimism continued to characterize America.
With the elections of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both in their forties, America still seemed to embrace some of that youthful energy and optimism. And then….and then the Baby Boomers started getting older and older, and at least in government and politics, the Baby Boomers haven’t figured out how to make a graceful exit and pass the baton of leadership to younger women and men who have literally waited their turn, sometimes for decades.
Of course, this must be seen within the context of President Biden announcing that he will be running for re-election in 2024. Joe Biden is 80 years old. Were he to win in 2024 he would be 82 years of age two weeks after the election. And looking forward he would be 86 years old at the end of his second term.
There are two very important perspectives to keep in mind. Assuming that he continues to defy the actuarial prognoses for octogenarians and stays in somewhat good health, it is hard to have full confidence that President Biden will be able to sustain the high energy levels needed in a 24-7-365 job for four years.
Nevertheless, as you are reading this, it is a very good bet that barring some health intervention, President Biden will be the 2024 presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. It is also a very good bet that should he be victorious in November 2024, every misstep, every halting step and every sign – no matter how faint – that Father Time is about to make it clear that immortality is left only to saints, gods and goddesses will be “breaking news” for four years.
It is important to keep in mind that Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president in 2024, will be 77 years of age on Election Day. And should he be president he would be 81 years in the final year of his presidency.
The question that should be asked by any American with an interest in the present and future of this country is how did the leadership of this nation become the province of septuagenarians and octogenarians? How did a man born during World War II and another man who was born one year after World War II become the best prospects for the presidency?
Further, how is it possible that all of the women and men between 40 and 65 with political ambition fade into the scenery? And, whatever happened to the image of energy and optimism that this country was supposed to be presenting to the rest of the world.
With all due respect to the senior citizens of America, it is hard to believe that men in their 70’s and 80’s represent the best leadership opportunities for this country. And, it should be noted that it is not only the presidency where this dissonant reality becomes apparent.
In the United States Senate there are 54 senators over the age of 65. In the United States. And it turns out that 21 of them are between the age of 70 and 80. And, parenthetically, California Senator Dianne Feinstein is 89.
In corporate America it is rare for the CEO of a Fortune 500 country to stay in office past the age of 65. The main reason for this age limit is not due to the fact that the female and male CEO’s suddenly become ineffective at 65. The reason is that the mandatory retirement age keeps a flow of younger executives coming into executive positions, bringing with them new energy, new ideas and new perspectives.
The reality of the United States government being in the hands of a gerontocracy with no real interest in grooming and guiding new leaders is a problem that is not going to get any better as long as seniority is the only coin of the realm in the Senate and the House of Representatives. And while this country continues along this hoary path of gerontocracy, the leadership of many countries is going in the opposite direction. Consider the age of these heads of state:
- Russia – Putin – (a virtual youngster by American standards) – 70
- United Kingdom – Sunak – 42
- France – Macron – 45
- China – Xi -69
The numbers don’t lie. The leadership of the world is trending younger at exactly the time that Americans are embracing the dominance of gerontocracy. And, as is the case in corporate America, it is important to continue a flow of younger women and men into senior public service instead of waiting their turn until the gerontocracy ages out or dies off.
There is probably not much that can be done about the prospects of a Biden-Trump faceoff next year.
But is definitely not too late to begin to demand a place for younger Americans in leadership.
After all, given the current state of affairs in America it isn’t as if aging Baby Boomers have done a great job of it.