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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Elections and expirations: how old is too old to hold office?

GVL Editorial
GVL Editorial

As the presidential race comes closer and closer, we are getting increasingly concerned about the age and mental competency of the candidates proposed on the ballot.

This year, it is forecasted that 81 year old Joe Biden will be the Democratic elect and 77 year old Donald Trump will be the Republican president-elect. Biden is the oldest elected president in U.S. history, breaking the previous record set by Trump during the 2016 election. This means that both Biden and Trump are currently on track to break the record for the third consecutive election. Frankly, we’re sick of this. We don’t think records for the oldest politician are the ones that need to be broken. 

Both leading presidential candidates are multiple years beyond the life expectancy of the average American male. Obviously speculation about the chances of a U.S. president possibly passing away in office due to old age exists, but more importantly the cognitive ability of former President Trump and President Biden absolutely must be called into question.

Recently Biden had a public mishap where he mixed up the president of France with an ex-leader that had died several years prior. 

The New York Post wrote, “During a campaign speech in Las Vegas, the 81-year-old president inaccurately recalled speaking to former French president Francois Mitterrand — who died in 1996 — during a 2021 meeting with world leaders.”

Regardless of where you land politically, we can’t ignore this mixup. Coming from any party leader, it is concerning.

Trump’s mental competency doesn’t look much better than Biden’s, either. Voters may recall that “Former President Donald J. Trump on Friday appeared to confuse Nikki Haley for Nancy Pelosi during a speech in New Hampshire,” reported the New York Times

As we approach the upcoming November election, we are once again faced with the recurring issue presented by the American two-party system: neither candidate is particularly likable, or necessarily qualified to represent young Americans and the contemporary problems of a digital society. Their age limits their ability to serve the American people. 

With a minimum age requirement of 35 years for prospective presidential candidates, we feel that it is imperative that a maximum age limit be set for candidates as well. Many Americans seem to agree.

According to the Pew Research Center, “82% of Republicans and 76% of Democrats support putting a maximum age limit in place for elected officials in Washington, D.C.” Additionally, the Pew Research Center also found that nearly half of Americans would prefer presidential candidates to be in their 50s, according to a 2023 survey

That said, this is not an issue only limited to presidential candidates. Dozens of congress members are above the age of 70, and multiple are above 80 years of age. Most of these people will not be around to feel the impact of their policy-making (and often, lack thereof).

According to the National Institute of Health and the Journal of Gerontology, “Cognitive decline may begin after midlife, but most often occurs at higher ages (70 or higher).”

We believe any presidential or congressional candidate should not meet or exceed the age of 70 years by the day of the general election. Even if this comes across as a drastic change, an age limit has to happen and it is not an entirely foreign concept.

Proposed solutions to the issue of age limits do already exist. Currently, the state of North Dakota has proposed legislation that would limit congressional candidates from taking office if they reach the age of 81 by the end of their term. Although we feel 81 is still far too old for potential elected representatives, we do think North Dakota is establishing a transferable baseline that can be applied to presidential elections.

We feel strongly that the executive and legislative branches of government should follow in North Dakota’s footsteps and set a maximum age limit of 70 for presidential and congressional candidates. This will not only result in representation that is more relatable for the majority of Americans, but will also help curb the obvious cognitive decline issues seen in a large portion of our elected officials holding office.

This type of legislation seems to have non-partisan support. Ultimately, it will be up to those in positions of power in Washington to make the right decision for the country’s future, even if it hurts them. To be clear, that is what they should always be doing.

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