Are some politicians too old to serve? Michiana weighs in

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 5:53 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - As Donald Trump tossed a football before last weekend’s Iowa-Iowa State game, the former president was three months past his 77th birthday.

President Joe Biden just completed a whirlwind tour of southeast Asia and is 80 years old.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is 81 years old and has exhibited incidents of freezing up during press briefings of late.

Political operatives in both major parties are eager to point out the infirmities of older members of the other party, but aging pacesetters populate both political parties.

No doubt about it, we have a lot of big decisions to make in our nation over the next year and a half, so I hit the streets of South Bend to find out to what extent age is likely to be a factor in the decisions made by voters.

Nichole Reed chose her words carefully on the topic.

“I don’t want to be ageist because I believe you can do certain things that can improve your quality of life later on in your years. But if you can clearly see that someone is on the route to mental decline, if you wouldn’t have this person watching your children or a camp counselor or a teacher, then they probably shouldn’t have a high political job,” she said.

Bailey Ritsema wasn’t afraid to name names.

“We’ve seen videos of Joe Biden, we’ve seen videos of Mitch McConnell, we’ve seen these videos where it’s like clearly there’s something going on here that maybe this person shouldn’t be in charge as much as they are,” she said.

Age is not the top concern of William VanNorman.

“There’s a lot of things going on right now in politics and the world,” he said. “The age is a big problem, but there’s so many other things that we need to fix along with that.”

What I heard a lot of on the midday September streets of South Bend is that numbers aren’t the key. Rather, we need to keep an eye out for the signs of cognitive decline.

“Not so much age per se as cognitive ability I would say, so that’s kind of a case-by-case thing,” said David Molenda. “I don’t have any firm age at which point I disqualify somebody.”

However, Andrea Chatman took a hard line.

“Once you get over 60, 65 I feel like you need to step down,” she said.”

Cognitive decline wasn’t the top issue discussed on the streets of south bend. Many young voters are more concerned with the way boomer power brokers view the world.

“A lot of people who are in power now are out of touch with the everyday lives of the people that they are making the laws for,” Reed said.

For the record, this was a decidedly unscientific survey, with no elaborate polling apparatus. Just me running around with my iPhone, peppering peeps with questions about how they view this issue.

I set out on this story trying to find out about how people viewed politicos dealing the infirmities of old age. The conversations, though, evolved into discussions about how people of a certain age view such issues as climate change, college debt, and even LGBTQ issues.

It’s always fun to hit the streets and talk to smart peeps.

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