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Does America Have a Gerontocracy Problem?

Exploring the politics of age and the fraught debate over what—if anything—should be done about Washington’s very old guard.

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Americans apparently agree on at least one thing: age matters. A recent CBS News poll shows that large, bipartisan majorities believe there should be maximum age limits for elected officials, with nearly half of those surveyed saying the cutoff should be 70 years old. That, of course, would eliminate the two presumptive candidates in next year’s presidential election. If Donald Trump, 77, manages to reclaim the White House in 2024, he would become the oldest person to ever win a presidential election. The same goes for Joe Biden, already the nation’s oldest-serving president at age 80.

It’s not just presidential politics that’s graying. High profile health scares for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have brought increased attention to the fact that this U.S. Senate is the oldest in its history, with an average age of 63.4 years, and nearly a quarter of the body over age 70.

How did a country that ostensibly worships youth come to be led by one of the oldest political classes in the democratic world? And how much of a problem is it, really? Read on to explore the politics of old age from all sides, including whether voters actually punish candidates for too many candles on their birthday cakes.

Image by Image_Source_ / Getty Images