Sunday, November 30, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Age In The White House

There is now going to be an exhaustive discussion in the
media about the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
The discussion has already commenced, well before most
American voters have begun to think seriously about their
choices and preferences, but with the historic 2014 “wave”
election now history, and the prospect of no incumbent on
either party ticket in 2016, it is only natural that this political
conversation is underway.

I intend to explore several potential political themes for 2016,
and to try to anticipate, always an inexact exercise, what will
move voters most, not only in the presidential election, but
in the other major federal and state races as well.

We don’t know for certain who all the Democratic and
Republican contestants for the presidency will be, but with
the enormous organizational and financial requirements for
a successful candidacy, the time necessary to assemble this
kind of campaign organization, and less than two years
before the first caucuses and primaries, it becomes less and
less likely that a surprise late entry could emerge.

Initially, we can observe the obvious. The Democrats seem
poised to nominate Hillary Clinton, 67, if she decides to run
(and all signs point to that conclusion), but it is also probable
that she will have some initial opposition. Virtually all those
in her party, are, or will be in 2016, in their late 60s and in
their 70s. Does this pose a vital problem for the liberal party
which, in the recent past, has attracted the most younger
voters? In contrast, the Republican Party offers mostly
presidential candidates in their late 40s, 50s and early 60’s.

Individuals are quite varied in how they are affected by their
older years. Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George
H.W. Bush had distinguished presidencies. But for the past
six presidential elections, Americans have preferred
younger  figures. Bill Clinton was 46 at the time of his election
in 1992, George W. Bush was 54, and Barack Obama was 47.
Prior to them, John F. Kennedy was 43 when elected, Richard
Nixon was 55, and Jimmy Carter was 52. Unlike many cultures
in Asia and elsewhere in the world, the U.S. has become a culture
which celebrates youth. Political organizations of both parties
are dominated by young men and women.

If Mitt Romney were to be the GOP nominee again in 2016,
there would be presumably no age issue. Both he and Mrs.
Clinton are the same age. If for some unexpected reason,
Mrs. Clinton chose not to run, virtually all of the other
Democratic candidates are older Americans.

I am not suggesting that age is the primary issue in 2016, but
I do think it plays an important role in the more subliminal
landscape of the next cycle. Mrs. Clinton’s primary attraction
to her party is that, if elected, she would become the first
woman president, and that seems clearly to be a more
important consideration for liberal voters. Mr. Obama was one
of the youngest men elected president, and he is currently not
very popular. In fact, he was the catalyst for the “wave” election
rejection of the Democrats in 2014. Richard Nixon and George
W. Bush were the only “young” GOP post-war presidents, and
they, too, ended their presidencies with low voter approval.

In 2014, the Republicans regained the U.S. senate with a
significant number of younger, fresh figures. The “boomer”
generation have for more than twenty years dominated
American politics, but a newer generation seems eager more
and more to take charge. It will be quite instructive to see
how this impulse plays out in the 2016 election cycle.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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