by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It is the year of the octogenarian. American TV viewers can find Patrick Stewart, 82, boldly going in a new series of Star Trek: Picard and 80-year-old Harrison Ford starring in two shows plus a trailer for the fifth installment of Indiana Jones.
And a switch to the news is likely to serve up Joe Biden, at 80 the oldest president in US history, or Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, who turns 81 on Monday. But while action heroes are evergreen, the political class is facing demands for generational change.
“America is not past our prime – it’s just that our politicians are past theirs,” Nikki Haley, 51, told a crowd of several hundred people in Charleston, South Carolina, as she launched her candidacy for president in 2024.
It was a shot across the bow of not only Biden but former US president Donald Trump, who leads most opinion polls for the Republican nomination but is 76 years old. Haley, notably, mentioned Trump’s name only once and avoided criticisms of him or his administration, in which she served as UN ambassador.
Instead, the former South Carolina governor called for a “new generation” or leaders and said she would support a “mandatory mental competency test for politicians over 75 years old”. It was a clue that in a party long shaped in Trump’s image, where ideological differences are likely to be slight, his senior status could offer primary election rivals a line of attack.
Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution thinktank at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, said: “She said what a lot of people are thinking, or are maybe afraid to say, and for that she deserves a lot of credit. The basic foundation of her argument, which is that we need to turn the page and find a new generation of leadership, is 100% right.”