- By Madeline Halpert
- BBC News, New York
7 hours ago
A recent health scare for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has reignited a debate about the age of America’s leading political figures.
The 81-year-old appeared to freeze for the second time in just over a month this week while speaking to reporters. In the US, the average age in the Senate is 64 years old, while two of the leading 2024 presidential candidates – Joe Biden and Donald Trump – are over 75 years old. A range of voters who spoke to the BBC say they have concerns about what some have called America’s gerontocracy.
Karen Kemp-Prosterman has a mixed race family in the north-east US. She says that protecting democracy and ensuring voting rights are her most important voting issues.
I do think the Senate is old and at some point we need to make sure we recruit younger people for duty. You have to admire the way [Mr McConnell] has used his power – he’s used it to the maximum that he could. But I also think it’s sad to watch. You can tell looking at him on the camera maybe that his mind knows that he’s trapped. As a human being it’s tough to watch, especially knowing the political athlete he once was.
I actually feel good about Biden. I feel Biden has accomplished so much compared to his predecessors who were far younger than him. As long as he surrounds himself with competent people, I don’t have issues with his age. Do I wish [Michigan Governor] Gretchen Whitmer or [Pennsylvania Governor] Josh Shapiro was running? Yes, but I will vote for Biden regardless.
Voters know how old these people are when they’re voting for them. I don’t think someone should have a competency test. Just because you’re old does not mean you can’t perform your job. The voters should be trusted to make their own decisions every time they go to the voting booth.
Noel Brown is from Manchester, United Kingdom, now living in North Carolina. He’s a registered independent who describes himself as slightly right-leaning.
I think if [Mr McConnell] feels capable of working, and if his physicians have cleared him to work, then I think that’s ok.
One thing I’d like to see is a certificate of competence which includes physical as well as mental health. It could be for Congress, for the president.
I have concerns about Mr Biden. With Biden, I’m not actually sure he is there mentally. I also think Donald Trump is too old to hold office. Trump has a lot of other issues for me. He disrespects the office of the president.
But people are living a lot longer, they’re more healthy to an advanced age. Somebody could be a young 80 and they could be an old 80.
A certificate of competence for someone who is holding such an important job is a good idea.
Gabriel Montalvo is part of the military and is active in local political groups. He voted for Trump in 2020.
I think Mitch McConnell still has a lot of experience working in our government but there comes a point in time in everyone’s lives where age catches up.
People should think about imposing term limits in the House and in the Senate. We do it with the president of the United States, and different governors throughout the country where they have amassed so much time that it no longer becomes about the people who voted for them but the political machine in Washington.
To keep a healthy government it’s important we have that sort of clean sweep. Every 10 years you should be able to filter out people because that’s closer to a newer generation of ideas emerging.
When it comes to both the president and the former president, while they’re both up there in age, there’s also a strong contrast in their mental capacity. This is the most powerful man in the world falling over and needing to be redirected by staff. Trump does not need to be overseen as closely.
John Schreiner is an independent who has voted for Republicans in roughly 60% of elections. He voted for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020.
It seems like our government is something like a gerontocracy. I’m concerned [Mr McConnell] is having these absent, seizure-like episodes. It’s not just Mitch McConnell. We’ve got [Senator] Diane Feinstein who is not necessarily coherent half the time.
We like to say age is just a number. I don’t think age is really just a number. Do either Biden or Trump have the stamina to do a job like this? I question it. I know the president likes to give the appearance of having the stamina, but he’s 80, so how long can he really go?
Term limits would be a hard sell for me. A politician is a career like any other and there’s something about having 10 to 20 years of experience. 20 years experience is better suited for the job than a person with two years of experience. I can easily see something like that coming back to bite us.