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The Forum Ed Board: Age not an issue in presidential campaign

FARGO -- The age factor in the presidential campaign has turned out to be no factor at all. The three candidates left standing are, in popular parlance, senior citizens. They qualify for Social Security and Medicare benefits. They are grandparent...

FARGO -- The age factor in the presidential campaign has turned out to be no factor at all. The three candidates left standing are, in popular parlance, senior citizens. They qualify for Social Security and Medicare benefits. They are grandparents. Should he win, Donald Trump would be 70 years old when he’s sworn in as president. Hillary Clinton would be 69. And Bernie Sanders, the senior citizen among them, would be a cool 75.

All this is reminiscent of the sainted (in Republican circles) Ronald Reagan, who was an oldie when he started running for president. As the skillful charmer he was, he used his age as an asset by referring to his opponents’ “youth and inexperience.” Nonetheless, by his second term his age was a factor as he began to lose his mental acuity.

But that’s history. Today’s raucous campaign for the presidency features two scrappy baby boomers and a socialist senator who was born almost two months to the day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. It’s a curious turn of events, given that relatively youthful President Barack Obama seemed to have broken the pattern of boomers and World War II-era presidents, beginning with John Kennedy (World War II) and ending with George W. Bush (a boomer). Apparently Obama’s tenure was an aberration, and the nation again will return to the pattern that dominated presidential elections for the last half of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st. Odd, is it not?

The Sanders phenomenon is most peculiar because the majority of Bernie’s fans are young people - millennials and other assorted young adults, many of whom love the old Vermonter’s never-gonna-happen message, even if they do not know who the guy really is. That he’s old enough to be their grandfather suggests the “youth” vote has some faith in longevity, experience and modern medicine.

It also seems to matter not that Clinton and Trump are the most disliked presumptive major party nominees ever, in all the years since such a measurement has been done by polling organizations. That’s quite an accomplishment for the Democratic and Republican parties. The two candidates most disliked by most Americans rise to the top of the charts among party types during the primaries, but still are held in very low esteem by the people who will be voting in November. Could it mean the parties are woefully out of touch?

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Clinton and Trump are boomers - maybe the last of their kind to run for the highest office in the land. And boomers still constitute one of the largest, if not the largest voter demographic in the nation. The millennial cohort is large, but they don’t vote. Boomers do. They don’t vote as a bloc, and Hillary and The Donald are doing their stuff to attract as many of them as they can.

But given the age of the three candidates still standing, this much is certain: Social Security and Medicare are safe, no matter which one of them prevails.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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