Should the US Constitution be amended to raise the age of eligibility to be President?
The Framers in their wisdom decided that having attained 35 years of age ( and hopefully, experience) was sufficient to be elected president.
This is a non-partisan analysis…but OK..before I get to the core of my thesis, let’s state the obvious. If the age of eligibility had been changed to, say, 50, the nation would have been spared Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. To paraphrase Martha Stewart: “Geez, that would have been a good thing!” That alone should make people think..
Back in the 177o’s, life expectancy in America was about 25 years. Those statistics though, are meaningless, for purposes of this discussion, due to horrendous numbers for infant mortality, deaths in childbirth for women, and the many then-commonplace and often fatal diseases, which have now been all but eradicated.
Indeed, many of our Founders, ( i.e. Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams) lived long lives. Among the educated classes of that era, life expectancy was probably about 50, so an age of eligibility (A0E) of 35 represented about 70% of that number.
Since the 1990’s, US life expectancy for men has been just over 70 years, and for women, just under 80. And given that we will no doubt have a female president sooner than later, a raise in the AoE is even more plausible.
Given a unisex life expectancy now of 75, and taking 70% of that, we get 53, so amending the Constitution for an AoE of 50 follows historical precedent.
But the real value from this change in the AoE is the type of future presidential candidates that would result.
When our nation was founded, a potential president likely had some schooling, gotten married, experienced some military service, started a family, run a business, or a farm, and only then had become involved in politics. By age 35, he’d be formed to a great extent; he had a wealth of life experience to bring to his philosophy of governance.
Today, it’s a totally different world. Yes, we still face the obvious conundrums: one can fight and die for this country at age 17, yet can’t legally order a beer until age 21. However, under Obamacare, “kids” ( gotta love that term) can stay on their family’s health plan ( and continue to live in the basement) until age 26. And then, a few years later.. presumably run for president ( no doubt on the platform that “without having had the benefit of my parent’s medical coverage, I couldn’t be running for the White House today”)
But it’s far more than that. One of the greatest long term challenges to this nation is the rise of the political elite class. Attend the right schools, get a law degree, or a PhD, take a government post…slide over to the “private (crony capitalist) sector” for a few years..make the money..then run for office….and aim at the Top Job…the White House.
Let’s state another obvious fact: If the higher ( age 50) AoE was in effect, we wouldn’t be taking today about a Ted Cruz, or a Marco Rubio, or a Rand Paul, or a Scott Walker as a potential 2016 nominee.
While conservatives would happily take any of these four over Obama, with the exception of Walker, they haven’t proven that they are capable of running anything…let alone the country. One can be a great conservative thinker AND also a lousy administrator. And let’s not forget the obvious..the US government today is just a “little, teensy-weensy bit” larger and more complex than it was when founded. Indeed, as we look at the many scandals in the government today..it’s obvious that it’s too big, out of control, and nobody is really in charge.
And since I mentioned Scott Walker..he’d be a far better candidate after completing a second term as governor, and showing what the effect of his policies can really do for Wisconsin.
Clinton and Obama could still have emerged as nominees had they been forced to wait until age 50, but it’s highly unlikely. Clinton’s predilections would probably have caused him to self-destruct; to crash and burn. Obama, well…spending 6 years in the Senate would have shown him to be the Gertrude Steyn candidate ” there’s no there, there”..and his past would have become more than mere prologue.
An increased A0E will make the political class more likely to reveal their true selves…after all, you can’t vote “present” for a decade. And because the “youth factor” is thus somewhat neutralized, we’re likely to have many more non political types enter the field. At age 50, you’re far more able, and willing, to put your life, career, and family on hold, to seek the White House, than you are at age 35.
And please note that I totally refrained from saying that “50 is the new 30.”