The American contemporary preoccupation with older
political figures at the national level in both parties, belies
a global transfer of political power to the young.
The election of a 31 year-old political prodigy, already his
nation’s foreign minister, to be chancellor of Austria is only
the latest and most dramatic evidence of this phenomenon.
Chancellor-designate Sebastian Kurz is not only young, he is
a conservative. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,, of Canada is
a liberal. President Emmanuel Macron,, of France is a
reformist centrist. There is no discernible ideological trend
so far to this new generation of leaders --- in point of fact,
the stereotypical left-right-center modality of democratic
politics seems also in transition.
Other elected heads of state under the age of 40 include the
leaders of Ireland, Estonia, Ukraine and Yemen.
On the other hand, the president of the United States is 70,
his opponent in the last election was almost 70, and the
prominent leaders of both political parties, excepting
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (47)) are each near or
above 70 years of age. The U.S. senate is an “old” boys and
girls club (most of the women senators are seniors) --- with
several members in their 70s and 80s (as is true in the U.S.
As an undeniable “old guy,”I might surprise my readers
with the admission that I gladly welcome this historically
inevitable transfer of generational power in the world, and
am eager for a very promising generation of young men and
women of both parties to take charge in my own country.
Chronological age and attitude, of course, are not always the
same. There are notable exceptions and examples of some
older political leaders who adapt to the times and do not
insist on outmoded policies and ideas. At the state level in the
U.S., for example, there are numerous very young and very
talented young men and women already serving as governors,
attorneys general, secretaries of state, and legislators.
It’s only a matter of time before they take higher positions.
Even in a federal administration led by a senior citizen, some
rather young figures, men and women, are playing a prominent
part, including Stephen Miller, 31, the president’s speechwriter,
and his very able young staff; United Nations ambassador
Nikki Haley, 45; counselor Ivanka Trump, 35; and senior advisor
Jared Kushner, 36. A White House staff, of course, is almost
always made up of young persons (who have the time for the
long hours of work required), but President Trump seems to
take serious counsel from younger figures around him --- as
well as the many senior military figures he has appointed.
Perhaps a problem for the U.S. opposition party, the Democrats,
is their almost exclusive leadership of men and women who
are in their 60s and 70s. The early 2020 liberal presidential
field is dominated by Bernie Sanders (76) , Elizabeth Warren (68),
Hillary Clinton (70), and Joe Biden (75). The voices of their party
are still House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (77), and Senate
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (66).
As I have already said, youth is no guarantee of effective
leadership, nor is the experience of older age not without
important advantages. Newt Gingrich, 74, is perhaps still the
most forward-thinking. U.S. elder statesman, Henry Kissinger,
94, still has enormous “big picture” foreign policy wisdom.
Former Senator and Ambassador Rudy Boschwitz, 86, is still a
notable open-minded and principled political figure. Bill Clinton,
71, was until recently mired in new controversies, the savviest
political figure in his party --- well past his leaving the presidency.
Nonetheless, the younger generations all over the globe are
almost invisibly assuming their rightful roles in public life.
The earliest signs of this in any democratic state come from
the younger consumers and voters. Soon after that, younger
leaders emerge. It might not be obvious yet, but this is what
is happening now. It’s truly breaking news.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.