So the preference for very old candidates seems to be weirdly, specifically American. What’s that about?
Maybe it’s about decades of youth disengagement from politics. According to The Economist, older Americans have outvoted younger Americans by a wider margin than in the typical OECD country. This is particularly true at the local level. As Timothy Noah writes in Politico, studies have found that the median voter age in America’s municipal elections is 57—“nearly a generation older than the median age of eligible voters.”
Or maybe it’s about the American electorate’s preference for “experienced novices.” Since 1996, every new president has had less national political experience than the previous commander in chief had when he was elected. Bill Clinton was a fresher face than George H. W. Bush, but had more gubernatorial experience than George W. Bush, who in turn was a governor for longer than Barack Obama was a senator. And then came Trump, who had no political experience at all. If you extrapolate this trend, it might sound like America’s next breakthrough presidential candidate will be some 35-year-old YouTube influencer who just recently learned about the filibuster.
But audiences tend to gravitate toward extreme novelty when it’s paired with deep familiarity.