The UK, U.S. and France all have election candidates past the age of 60. Does this mean we’re no longer ageist?
It must be conceded from the outset that there are many questions to be raised, about which, I am ignorant of answers, dear reader. All I can show you is a developing trend of old age in potential candidates, across ideologies and nations, and, hopefully, offer some explanations as to why these prospective faces appear to be growing greyer.
Bernie Sanders is going to become 74 next month; Hilary Clinton will be 68 the following month after. On the opposing branch of American politics, opinion poll leading Donald Trump is 69. In the UK, as I write, Labour leadership ballots are sent out, with the 66-year-old Jeremy Corbyn looking set to win. In France, the 70-year-old, former Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, is surging in popularity as he takes on Mr Sarkozy for the nomination of the centre-right Republican Party.
These three elections, in the United States, the United Kingdom and France, will beckon the new age of politics in ‘the West’. We can talk throughout the night about the U.S. Democrats and the UK’s Labour Party swinging Left, or the universal rise of a ludicrous far-right in all the nations, but what has someone’s age got to do with anything?
Allow me to proposition you with some theories as to why there is an apparent silver-lining to the cloud of the ‘08 financial crash:
Since the glittery, glam, and unnervingly sticky Kennedy Administration, our politics has unfortunately been swept in a Hollywood-era fever about rather suave, well-to-do men. I mean, America later went on to hire a real life cowboy in Reagan, whilst, in ol’ Blighty, ask any member of the public as to why Ed Miliband was ‘the wrong brother’ to lead, and see if you get further than David’s rather appealing, bacon-sandwich-accomplishing face.
‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ was the motto of a political generation, but as every replica came forth, less and less was the general appeal to the public; each imitation looking less and less like a cowboy, more and more like a used car salesman.
Now we have hit a breaking point, and the electorate are seeking an ‘ideologically pure’ and shamelessly unglamorous resistance, consisting of people who were born before the craze of slogans and soundbites.
The next offering is simply: the old like the old. I won’t use your precious time reader to tell you of the trend in demographic which you are most certainly already aware of. We are living longer, so there are more old people kicking about, and not kicking buckets.
Christopher Hitchens wrote about ‘the most contemptible solidarity of all: the generational’. However, this was to preface the notion that generations share more than age, but ideals and understanding. As I have pointed out, nothing links the aforementioned cases of potential leaders apart from their age. So, are there a greater number of old people on the political map because there are more old voters? And even further, the young are demographically less likely to vote, granting the older voices more power in a democratic process.
Finally, are we, from a top-down approach, beginning to tackle our societal issue of ageism? You will once again note that this is an issue that has been quietly rumbling away in our communal consciousness. We hear actresses and news reporters every now and again decrying their treatment once one begins to creep over the half-century mark, however, this (not always unreasonably) is almost always galvanised from a feminist viewpoint, rather than a general ageist one.
Old people are turfed out of the jobs market if they do not climb the ladder high enough before their allotted time of meaningful existence is up. If you are not on a board, have a directorship or an untouchable tenure before your red flushes or the probing prostate check, it becomes an economic equivalent of The Purge. So maybe, as a society, what we need is a seventy-plus leader who can infuse our culture with an awareness that these people that linger longer are actually of value to our little game, even if they no longer play it.
You were well warned, dear reader, that this is by no means scientific in its process. I have hopefully spurred an interesting, five minute dinner conversation tonight, but alas, this is all I can provide for the time being. The three explanations I have offered are not exclusive of one another, and I would not be unreasonable to anyone who feels any of them do not stand a test of reason beyond my own current thinking. But it is curieux, non?
Hitchens, C. (2010) Hitch-22, Atlantic Books: London. p. 85