When Joseph R. Biden became president of the United States, he was 78 years old.
Though still physically and mentally fit, Biden was, in the words of Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times, “far past his prime.”
Though at first acclaimed as the man who defeated Donald Trump, Biden’s poll numbers swiftly declined because of a pandemic that would not quit; a bad economy; a wave of foreign and domestic crises; and an increasingly divided nation where even the best president is automatically hated by half of the population. But even some of Biden’s biggest followers seem to agree with Goldberg, who “hopes he doesn't run again, because he's too old.”
And she continues:
“I didn't want Biden to be the Democratic nominee in 2020, partly for ideological reasons but even more because he seemed too worn out and unfocused … So, I could be wrong when I make a similar argument today. But the presidency ages even young men, and Biden is far from young; a country in as much trouble as ours needs a leader vigorous enough to inspire confidence. As a recent New York Times/Siena College poll found, 64% of Democrats want a different presidential nominee in 2024. Those Democrats cite Biden's age more than any other factor, though job performance is close behind.”
At 79, Biden is ancient, but he is not alone. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is 82, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is 83, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 71. In all fairness, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is 80 (even older than Biden) and the Donald is 76. Ironically, most Justices of the Supreme Court, once a depository for old, white men, are younger than the leaders of the Executive and Legislative branches, thanks in part to Republican presidents’ political appointments. (Clarence Thomas is the oldest justice, and he is 72.) I am 69 years old, and I am still younger than most of our congressional leaders and every living American president except Barack Obama. As Goldberg put it, “we are ruled by a gerontocracy.”
In 2019 I wrote an article about Baby Boomer presidents and presidential candidates like Joe Biden (who’s actually pre-Boomer). Unlike previous generations that gave us the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and the two Roosevelts, the Baby Boomers gave us Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump, all born in 1946. (Obama was born in 1961, which technically makes him a Boomer.) Though I made an exception in favor of Bernie Sanders (now 80) I wrote that oldies like Biden and Hillary Clinton were too old for the White House, and that it was time for a younger generation.
As we all know, Biden went on to be nominated by the Democrats in 2020; and I ate my words and voted for Biden as the only one who could get Trump out of the White House. Though Trump is still energetic he is almost as old as the man who defeated him. Like many Democrats, many Republicans agree that their peerless leader is too old for the job and now seek one to replace him, like the 43-year-old Ron DeSantis. As the incumbent, alas, Biden will be his party’s nominee, no matter how old he is, and I will vote for him as better than Trump or DeSantis. But should he run? Perhaps it is time for Biden to step down, with his head high, having served his full term as president and allow his party to nominate a younger woman or man who will continue his legacy.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.