You Want a Younger President?

Why older people make more plausible candidates

Douglas Rushkoff

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Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

I believe there’s a significant possibility that neither Biden nor Trump will be candidates by the time the major parties finish their conventions next summer. That may be a good thing, but it would make for a challenging election. Because no matter how much we like complaining about them, I’m getting the feeling that we actually prefer older candidates.

Biden, despite his age (or perhaps because of it), has been a more effective executive than many of us imagined. Yes, the withdrawal from Afghanistan was sloppy, but losing a war is always difficult. So is managing a pandemic. He did get a ton of other improbable stuff accomplished, from an infrastructure bill to a debt ceiling deal that ultimately gave up much less than Obama would have likely had to in the same circumstances. He may not be as articulate or energetic as we’d like, but he does offer some of the wisdom and patience of age. And he is unexpectedly smart.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Biden for a Frontline documentary when he was a senator (alas, they didn’t use the footage), and I was surprised by how intelligent he was. Interacting in person, he wasn’t just playing Uncle Joe but engaging with ideas as a thoughtful geopolitical analyst. Only a few people I’ve ever interacted with have been so smart that they could anticipate and respond to my thoughts before I’d even had them, myself: Bruce Sterling, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Terence McKenna, Walter Kirn, and Joe Biden.

So it is with no shade that I share my perception that he is growing too frail by the month to keep up the kind of schedule, determination, and embodied confidence demanded of a major world leader on a planet facing so many simultaneous existential crises. I can’t help but suspect something will happen, some gaffe or health crisis that forces the party to reconsider.

For his part, Trump may have more apparent life force, but I am beginning to doubt whether he’ll make it through the coming series of indictments. (In fact, between my writing the second and third paragraphs of this piece, CNN announced Trump was indicted on federal charges.) I’m not the only one having trouble imagining him making it to the convention. Except for maybe DeSantis, the Republican…

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Douglas Rushkoff

Author of Survival of the Richest, Team Human, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://teamhuman.fm