Is age really just a number?

Christy Fahey, Contributing Writer

In the wake of the 2016 election, there is one defining characteristic which may sway voters’ opinions: the age of the potential candidates. More than in any other election, voters are taking into consideration the age and health of those who could foreseeably run our country. Three of the leading potential nominees, Donald Trump, 69, Bernie Sanders, 74, and Hillary Clinton, 68, may stand at a disadvantage to their younger competitors, Ted Cruz, 45, and Marco Rubio, 44, due to the formers’ perceived outdated mentality.

Age has been an obstacle for potential presidential candidates for generations. The 2008 election saw age as a point of contention, when John McCain, then 71, ran against President Barack Obama, nearly 25 years his junior. However, Ronald Reagan faced the same skepticism when he ran at age 69; he proved that age was not a defining factor in his campaign and remains our oldest elected president to date.

A primary concern is whether or not an older nominee will appeal to or meet the needs of the younger generations. In the ever-changing world in which we live, it is important that the elected candidate is in touch with current trends and can acclimate well to evolving societal norms. Millennials may be apprehensive of the candidates’ intentions, considering the generational gap. The perspective of an older candidate may be too “obsolete” for the generation Y voters, and as a result, millennials will identify with and support the younger nominees.

Another hindrance that comes with age is the possibility of declining health. Presidency is an already taxing responsibility, and potential health concerns would further aggravate the challenge. If American voters feel that a candidate’s presidency may be affected by preexisting medical conditions, they will be less likely to show support; the slightest inclination toward either physical or emotional weakness will deter voters. Stamina and vitality are essential qualities which sway voters to believe in their cause. Trump, Sanders, and Clinton have each had physicians release records indicating that they are in good health.

Conversely, the younger candidates lack the experience that comes with holding office for many years. The insight gained throughout a nominee’s political career speaks volumes compared to the lively energy he or she may possess. Critics have even been quick to characterize Rubio as “too young” to assume office based on his boyish appearance. Ultimately, voters will always find fault with candidates who do not suit their personal political agenda. This year’s election in particular focuses on each candidate’s personal traits and questions how age can alter voters’ opinions.

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