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Column: Should we elect men in their 70s to be president?
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Column: Should we elect men in their 70s to be president?

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In hindsight, historians will probably note Joe Biden missed a great opportunity to run for election in 2016. Biden, grieving the loss of his son, chose not to run. In all probability, he had the sympathy of many voters and seemed to demonstrate strong leadership. Mr. Biden is a decent man, an affectionate husband and father, but can a man of his age function as the current elected president of the United States?

Biden’s recent press conferences have furthered the issue of his competency, both physically and mentally. Biden, like any former president, has been heavily scrutinized for his decision making at times. Yet, what seems more possibly perilous is the age of this leader. When elected, he was already the average age a man dies in the country according to one study. When inaugurated, he surpassed that age. Are leaders of other countries watching? Yes. A leader cannot continue to blame a former administration but takes charge effectively. Can he continue to do so at his age?

He is not the first president to be criticized for his age or to watch recent polls shrink due to these issues. There were moments during the presidency of Ronald Reagan when cabinet members and others were tasked with judging Reagan’s competency as the oldest president at the time. Their view was Reagan could do the job. Still, Reagan’s biological son believes his father already exhibited signs of Alzheimer’s disease during his presidency. His adopted son refutes such an idea.

Conspiracy theorists will ask, “Who’s running him?” Are there people of power and influence in some dark deep state controlling events? Others admire Biden for his frankness and his leadership and how he has pushed forward initiatives like aid to families suffering from the pandemic and supporting a bill for infrastructure. Still, he has blown it at times, and is this a result of his age or some kind of incompetence? Will Biden’s administration be the time when a president is removed because of health issues? God forbid, will we witness the death of a president in office because of natural causes?

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As the last presidential election neared, a major concern for some voters were the ages of both the major candidates. Mr. Biden had already reached the age of 77. President Trump was 74 and due to reach the average death year in a possible second term. Both of these candidates and their ages presented frustration. Why would the heads of the two parties put forward two older white men who did not necessarily reflect the demographic of the American voter and had a statistical probability of dying in office? Except for the incumbent in office, there were other choices out there.

We learned a lesson in the election of 2020. It was not a new lesson, but one filled with growing concern and importance. Both major political parties in the country are simply corrupt in places. Money rules campaigns. People with power and influence have too much suggestion as to who the candidates are. Ideas are not the engine of politics, money is. The election represented two camps trying to outdo the other. Victory was important, not for the ideas and changes the president and his administration could bring, but one side could simply vouch for the fact they won. How else could two lackluster opponents find themselves running for the greatest office in the land?

It is clear these parties do not speak for the majority of the American people. It is time for some new ones and some fresh choices. There is no question Republicans and Democrats both do some good things, but parts of the entire system of political parties and elections are broken due to too much party ideology and dogma. President Biden’s election benefitted from these conditions as well, and to voter frustration stemming from the Trump presidency. If the votes had gone in President Trump’s favor, we would be talking about his fetish for Diet Coke and his own physical and mental competencies.

True, there should not be an age limit on leadership on the high side of things. The wisdom of life and experience with working with people and accomplishing matters are key virtues in politics. Yet, when there are serious doubts about an individual’s competency, Section four of the 25th Amendment needs to be invoked. Let us all hope we never need to do this, but we must be prepared for it.

Parties and the American people need to make better choices concerning the candidates we want running in our elections. The risks are high and lives are at stake. Sadly, our elections have become more about entertainment than the possibility of leadership. That’s a foul on both parties.

Brent Tomberlin is a social studies instructor at South Caldwell High School and CCC&TI. He can be reached at coachtomberlin@gmail.com.

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