The impact of President Franklin D. Roosevelt dying in office — then the subsequent revelations that his ‘decisions’ were often being made by the First Lady while incapacitated — left a profound mark in our views of the presidency.
What was once considered private health information was now front-and-center in the information that Americans wanted to know about their president — even more important than their finances.
But in 2016, we have a paradigm shift occurring, one that no one could have anticipated two years ago — health concerns because of age is a primary issue.
All but 10 of our presidents were under 60 years old at the time of election.
This year, the 4 most popular candidates are over 60, with the oldest, Donald Trump, turning 70-years-old this past June.
No matter who wins, we will have one of the oldest (if not the oldest) presidents to have ever been elected.
But the track history for 60+ year-old presidents hasn’t been too good, with only 8 of the 10 being able to complete their terms.
And while most Americans probably don’t keep these facts and figures running around in their heads — they intuitively realize that this year has the oldest field of candidates ever and they ‘should’ pause to think about it.
Frankly, with the entire field over 60 years old, it’s actually surprising that health issues haven’t been front-and-center for longer — but that’s the unpredictable nature of the winds of political campaigning.
But America is getting older and medicine has made leaps in age-related care. Senior citizens are competing in marathons, starting new careers, and going back to college.
The scrutiny that Ron Paul, Bob Dole, and John McCain all faced due to age is probably a thing of the past — it’s doubtful that a 60-year-old will ever be perceived as ‘too old’ for the presidency at this point.
But why the change in selecting men and women over 60 for a job that in the last 3 decades has been portrayed as a “young man’s” job?
There’s no ‘good’ reason for this, only a whole lot of speculation — but a lot is probably driven by the fact that many voters throughout the political spectrum see America at a crossroads of change that will require great wisdom to navigate.
One by one through the primary season, the younger ‘party darlings’ dropped out — their ideas, and often impetuous demeanor simply didn’t ring true to voters.
What was left was a group of candidates asking voters to choose them because of their experience, leadership, and ideas (often in that order).
If one quality could be isolated in 2016, it seems the candidates are being judged on their experience more than any other quality.
If anything, we should expect the attacks on the candidate’s age and health to increase during this last push to November.
It seems to be one of the mudslinging issues that Americans love — with political ‘gotchas’ relating to health having a long history of damaging and derailing campaigns.
In a sense, it really is a vitality contest -- and one that all four candidates are doing a superb job of navigating.
A Taft-style ‘getting stuck in the bathtub’ health jab seems to sell newspapers — in modern politicking there seems to be no limits and nothing out-of-bounds.
In a sense, it really is a vitality contest — and one that all four candidates are doing a superb job of navigating.
The next two months will be filled with candidate jet-setting, campaign fundraisers, and last minute appeals to voters — with the occasional ‘slow down’ for the televised debates.
And that’s the dual-edged nature of an ‘experience’ campaign when running for office — you’ll always have to face the flip-side of questions about health and vitality.
These attacks will likely sharpen in the final two months, because of their effectiveness at undermining the candidate’s experience.
But even facing these attacks, there are no signs of slowing down out of any of the candidates.
Photo Source: CNN