This could have been an entirely self-effacing moment — or it might be Jimmy Carter’s message to the Democratic Party. “What will it take to convince you to run for president?” asked the moderator of a town hall at the Carter Center last night in Atlanta. Carter laughed off the comparison to Grover Cleveland’s two non-consecutive terms, but then turned more serious in questioning whether 80-year-olds would be up to the job, let alone 95-year-olds:
“I hope there is an age limit,” he said as the audience laughed. “You know, if I were just 80 years old, if I were 15 years younger, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties that I experienced when I was President.” …
“So the things I faced then in foreign affairs, I don’t think I could undertake them when I was 80 years old. So 95 is out of the question. I had a hard time walking when I came in,” said Carter, whose birthday is on October 1.
Some of us remember the Carter presidency and think he wasn’t all that up to the task at 52, either, especially in foreign affairs. Carter turned the Iranian hostage crisis into a daily soap opera and appeared baffled and impotent when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. But we digress, while CNN connects the dots:
Age has been an ongoing topic of discussion in the 2020 campaign. President Donald Trump, who is 73 years old, became the oldest first-term President when he was inaugurated, and the top three Democratic contenders — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78; former Vice President Joe Biden, 76; and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70 — would also be among the oldest first-term presidents in history.
There is a difference between age and frailty, however. For all his other real and perceived faults, Trump is clearly vital and active. So is Elizabeth Warren for that matter, the youngest of the four septuagenarians. Even Bernie! appears not to have slowed down at all despite already nearing Carter’s suggested age limit. Health and vitality matter more than age itself, it would seem, although it’s not clear whether voters by and large completely agree with that. They might be wondering why both major parties will ask them to choose between aging Boomers for the second cycle in a row rather than offer a fresher pick.
Nevertheless, The Hill reports that Senate Democrats are praying that Biden wins the nomination, even if he sleeps through Election Day. They’re worried about what a Warren or Sanders nomination will do to down-ticket races, let alone their chances of winning the presidency:
Yet a number of Democrats privately acknowledge that if Warren or Sanders wins the nomination, it will create immediate tension within the party.
The two progressives are to the left of many of their colleagues, and some of their best-known proposals, such as “Medicare for All” and free college education, do not have widespread support within the Democratic caucus.
If Warren or Sanders wins the party’s presidential nomination, there will be pressure in the Senate to adopt their proposals. And there could be tensions between a nominee and senators who do not back their proposals.
Another factor is the race for the Senate. Some Democrats think it will be easier to win races in conservative-leaning states such as Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia if Biden is their nominee and not Warren or Sanders.
There is no age limit on the instinct for self-preservation. Voters, however, might have other ideas if it comes down to old 60s-style socialists or the rough-mannered incumbent already in place.