How Old is Too Old to Be President?

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When does a candidate simply become too old to be President of the United States? The two leading contenders face a lot of ageism.

Critics have called into question the ages of both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump this election cycle. But how old is too old to be president? At what age — if there’s any age — should someone no longer be eligible to run for the White House?

Currently, the Constitution only sets a minimum age: A president of the United States must be 35 years old. But once you reach your 35th birthday, there’s no age that would disqualify you. A 40-year-old woman, a 65-year-old man, or a pair of men hovering around the age of 80 can still campaign and be elected.

President Joe Biden, born on Nov. 20, 1942, will turn 82 in the weeks after this year’s election. Former President Donald Trump, born on June 14, 1946, will turn 78 before Election Day. The two men are about three-and-a-half years apart in age.

I hear plenty of Republicans claiming Biden is too old to be president. But if Trump were elected again, he’d reach Biden’s age while he was still in office.

I hear Democrats joking about some apparent slip-ups on Trump’s recent rants they say call his memory into question. But if Trump’s memory, at age 77, is fair game, Biden’s, at 81, has to be as well.

The youngest candidate still hanging on, Nikki Haley, dropped out of the race the day after Super Tuesday. At age 52, she’s a youngster compared to Trump and Biden.

Does the age of a president matter?

A Pew Research Center survey recently found the majority of Americans favor an age limit for both elected officials and Supreme Court Justices.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are slightly more likely to support age limits for elected officials. Democrats and Democratic leaners are considerably more likely to support them for Supreme Court justices.

If we focus solely on the presidency, Pew found back in June that just 3% of Americans say they prefer a president to be in their 70s or older.

Only 3%. Yet that’s exactly what the electorate faces this year: A choice between two men who are 70+.

If you were going to place an age limit for the Oval Office, what age is fair? That’s where you hit an interesting disagreement.

Pew found that younger adults prefer younger presidents. Older adults, predictably, prefer presidents in their 60s or older. Only 6% of adults over age 50 want a president younger than they are. Only 11% of adults in their 30s want a president in their 60s or older.

Older Americans get their wish by default: You have to be at least 35 to be president. The youngest president elected so far was John Kennedy, who was 43. In November of 1963, he also became the youngest president to die in office.

How old is too old to be president? What should the limit be?

Ronald Reagan was 69 when he became the oldest president ever elected in 1980. Trump beat that record when he was elected at 70. Biden then broke Trump’s record when he was elected at age 78.

What age is realistic for an age limit? Is 80 too old to run? If you set 80 as a “mandatory retirement age” for a president, they’d have to be around 75 to be able to serve a full term. That would put far more focus on a vice president as a successor. But would the electorate then be voting for the president or for the president’s vice president as a way to slide them into place at the president’s 80th birthday?

Fair is fair in politics, right?

Americans are living longer than they were 50 years ago. But the average life expectancy in the U.S. is now 77. That means both major candidates have already reached that age. Should that disqualify both of them?

Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, has survived more than a year in hospice care and is, at 99, the longest-lived U.S. president. I wouldn’t suggest that at that age, anyone would be fit to serve as president. But the average life expectancy is just that: average. Some will live much longer while others won’t make it near that long.

Fifty years ago, one might have been reasonably able to suggest that the electorate should be the judge of such matters by who they nominate. But in the past decade, the electorate has seemingly gone out of control more than ever. It wants what it wants, its way or no way. Compromise, more than ever, has become a dirty word, even though compromise is how this country started.

If we had to set a limit, I’d suggest 75 as the age limit to run. But good luck getting that through. The same politicians in Congress — some of whom might have presidential aspirations — would have to pass that kind of amendment for it to become law.

What age do you think is too old to run…or do you think there’s a maximum age that could fairly apply to everyone?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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