As the 2020 Presidential Election looms closer, the question of age and its implications on the fitness of potential candidates have come to the forefront. Recent comments by 2020 Democratic nominee Dean Phillips have brought this issue to light. Mr. Phillips said that if Joe Biden wins the nomination, he is open to challenging him “if he cannot demonstrate the cognitive and physical capacity necessary for the job of the President of the United States” if he were to take office at the age of 80.
This statement has come as a shock to many in the Democratic Party. Joe Biden would be the oldest President in history if he were to win the election, taking office at the age of 79 in January of 2021, just weeks shy of his 80th birthday. It has raised the question of the age at which a President should be considered too old to be able to do the job.
Most people agree that there is an age where the job becomes too demanding physically and mentally, but no consensus as to when that should be. Joe Biden himself is fairly active and has made no comments about his age being a factor in his fitness for office, leading many Democrats to point out that 80 is not older than any current Presidential candidate. On the other hand, Biden’s age has been used to attack him.
The views of Dean Phillips reflect a larger trend in the Democratic Party as some view Biden’s age as a liability for the party. Many worry that it could be used to turn off voters and distract them from Biden’s agenda. Furthermore, it opens up the possibility that his age could be a factor in many of the decisions he might make as president.
This brings up the broader issue of how age should be a factor in deciding whether a presidential candidate is suitable for office. It is important to remember that while age has been used as a disqualifying factor in the past, there is always the possibility that an older person could be the best candidate for any given position. Age should not be used prohibitively but rather on a case-by-case basis, looking at previous records and mental and physical health.
In the end, how Dean Phillips’ challenge to Joe Biden impacts the future of the Democratic Party remains to be seen. It has, however, made many members of the Democratic Party reflect on the importance and implications of age in politics and in presidential elections. At the very least, this conversation will carry on until the election and hopefully bring more attention to how age should be considered when evaluating candidates.