#12 TRENDING IN Opinion 🔥

Why Are Our Presidential Candidates Aging?


Thu, March 21

If you look at American presidential elections since Obama, you’d think you were looking at your local retirement home’s registry. In the upcoming 2024 election, both of the two candidates, Trump and Biden, are over the age of 75. Biden, in fact, has been the oldest president of the United States.

When so many more young people are flooding the political landscape, why are we stuck with two people who are both over the average age of death in the US? The answer lies in all the dollar signs they've tagged onto their net worth over their many, many years.

Running for president is anything but cheap. If we learned anything from Logan Roy in Succession, money can take you everywhere, including the ballot. When we look at young people today, the difference with older generations is gapping.

Less than 50% of millennials own their own homes, and thousands are still paying off student debt. With all of this, how could they additionally afford the millions of dollars that a campaign takes? On the other hand, Trump and Biden both have the accessibility and funds to make political ads, posters, articles, and more. At the end of the day, the money needed for the presidency takes years, specifically 77 to 81 years, to make for most people. But what about the exceptions?

This year, in the Republican primaries, we saw one of the youngest people in years be in the limelight of debates—Vivek Ramaswamy. If the name sounds unfamiliar to you, chances are that the name Kamala Harris also does. The 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur has been in so many articles we’ve lost count.

Being a young person of color and running for the Republican nomination was, until this year, an unheard-of feat. In theory, he was perfect for the job. If he was put in the general election against Biden, his age alone would make him look like the best option. He may not believe in climate change, but at least he’ll live until the end of his term. If all this is true, why was he polling so low compared to Trump?

Largely, it was an experience issue. Both DeSantis, another Republican candidate, and Vivek were miles behind our past Mr. President.

DeSantis and Vivek's experience palled compared to Trump's, but even compared to DeSantis, Vivek had nowhere near the same level of experience. Experience has a funny way of being tied very closely to age. The longer you’re alive, the more time you’ve had to accomplish things. I wouldn't put it past Vivek if, years down the road, he is taking the Republican nomination home with him, but now, it was nearly impossible. The majority of people in America don’t know who the presidential candidates are until the ballet is in front of them. More people will recognize your name when you have been on the planet for longer. Of course, Vivek’s low poll rates are not only an effect of his age. His race, opinions, and status all played a role in his public opinion. Even so, age was one of the defining factors.

Many times, regardless of personal accomplishment, people see naivete when they look at a young face. Nobody wants a naive president. We have all experienced our older relatives calling Gen Z lazy, and that we have lacked challenges.

In the presidential election, so much rides on public image. To put it bluntly, old people do not trust young people. Public image demands trust. Even though more and more young people are coming to vote, the majority of voters remain 65+. Those voters have no faith in young people. There is not much anyone, let alone a presidential candidate, can do without the faith of others.

At the end of the day, regardless of how much a person has done, America is ageist. We’re not happy with young candidates, but we are definitely not happy with old ones either. This does not mean we are stuck in a gridlock of age.

We can change. To create change within the system, you have to be a part of the system. So many young people don’t show up to vote. However, we are improving, since 2016 the percentage of young people who are voting has gone up from 49% to 57%. We are seeing more and more voter registration booths being set up in high schools and colleges. Young people are speaking to their legislators. We are becoming part of the system.

Is a young president in the cards for the US? Possibly. A president below 40, like Vivek?

That might be pushing it, at least for now. A presidential campaign requires popularity and money, which some might argue is the same thing. Younger people are at a significant disadvantage in both of these. Americans don't like us and we're in massive debt. However, I am an optimist, so here’s the bright side. A young president isn’t unachievable. To get there, there needs to be a change in the narrative around the younger demographic. A change for the narrative around both young candidates and young voters. Age doesn't have to infer inexperience for young candidates. It doesn't have to infer ignorance in young voters.

Making this change won't be fast or easy, but showing up to vote is a great place to start. Our dissatisfaction is powerful, and we can have a government that looks like the future. The world is changing, so why can’t our candidates?

Allison Kuester

Writer since Oct, 2023 · 2 published articles

Allison Kuester is a junior from Arizona interested in the intersection between fashion and politics. She is the Editor-in- Chief of her school paper and looks forward to studying journalism in the future.