The President of the United States is 79 years old.
The speaker of the House is 82 years old.
The Senate majority leader is 71 years old.
The average age of a US senator at the start of 2021 was 64.3 – the oldest in American history.
While the American public doesn’t agree on much, they do agree on this: Our politicians are simply too old.
A new CBS News poll shows that almost three in four Americans (73%) think there should be some sort of maximum age limit placed on elected officials. Support for such an age limit is consistent across party lines. Seven in ten Democrats (71%) are on board, as are three quarters of Republicans and independents. Support is also remarkably consistent among age groups. Interestingly, the youngest group in the survey – those ages 18-29 – are least in favor of maximum age limits (68%), while three quarters of all other age cohorts back them.
What should the age cutoff be to serve in office? The most common answer among the choices presented in the CBS poll was 70 years old, with 4 in 10 Americans picking that option. One in 4 (26%) said 60 should be the oldest someone can be to hold elected office, while 18% said 80 should be the limit.
This is not, of course, some pie-in-the-sky discussion.
President Joe Biden, as I noted above, is 79 years old. He will turn 82 shortly after the 2024 election. He is already the oldest person ever elected to a first term as president.
That has led to skepticism, including from members of his own party, that he should seek a second term.
“My hunch is that we need new leadership across the board – Democrats, Republicans, I think it’s time for a generational move,’ Ohio Democratic Senate nominee Tim Ryan said recently when asked if Biden should run for reelection.
A slew of polling conducted over the summer showed that large swaths of the country also raised doubts about Biden running for another term, with some survey respondents citing his age.
“The presidency is too hard, physically, on anybody that’s there,” Jean Davis, an 87-year-old Iowa resident told the Des Moines Register in July of Biden. “He might have it mentally. But, physically, I don’t think he’s capable.”
“I’m just going to come out and say it: I want younger blood,” Nicole Farrier, a 38-year-old Michigan resident, told The New York Times in July. “I am so tired of all old people running our country. I don’t want someone knocking on death’s door.”
As the Times put it in a separate story:
“Mr. Biden looks older than just a few years ago, a political liability that cannot be solved by traditional White House stratagems like staff shake-ups or new communications plans. His energy level, while impressive for a man of his age, is not what it was, and some aides quietly watch out for him. He often shuffles when he walks, and aides worry he will trip on a wire. He stumbles over words during public events, and they hold their breath to see if he makes it to the end without a gaffe.”
Former President Donald Trump sought to make Biden’s age and mental acuity an issue during the 2020 campaign – and has continued to do so since losing that race. “This guy doesn’t have a clue,” Trump said ahead of their first 2020 debate. “He doesn’t know where the hell he is. This guy doesn’t know he’s alive.” Trump, it’s worth noting, is no spring chicken at 76 years old as he eyes another potential White House bid.
Biden has hit forcefully back against those sorts of attacks. “Watch me, Mr. President. Watch me,” Biden said in August 2020. “Look at us both. Look at us both, what we say, what we do, what we control, what we know, what kind of shape we’re in. Come on.”
For what it’s worth, following Biden’s annual physical last fall, his physician said the President “remains fit for duty, and fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations.”
Even below the presidential level, the question of age has come to the fore in recent months. Last spring, the San Francisco Chronicle published a lengthy piece detailing the alleged mental decline of California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is 89 years old. The article included these lines:
“Four U.S. senators, including three Democrats, as well as three former Feinstein staffers and the California Democratic member of Congress told The Chronicle in recent interviews that her memory is rapidly deteriorating. They said it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required to represent the nearly 40 million people of California.”
Feinstein subsequently told the Chronicle’s editorial board that she was “puzzled” by the reporting, noting: “I meet regularly with leaders. I’m not isolated. I see people. My attendance is good. I put in the hours.”
(Sidebar: Feinstein had previously stepped down from her spot as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2020 following liberal criticism of her handling of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination hearings.)
Feinstein’s current term ends in 2025.
The age issue – whether at the presidential, Senate or House level – is a touchy one to report on or even to talk about. Age is undefeated, and everyone knows that at some point it could be them who is being quietly ushered off the public stage.
At the same time, as these CBS poll numbers make clear, the public is fed up with so many old politicians – and is more than ready for a change.