OPINION: Biden and Trump typify elders’ unwillingness to pass the political reins

Neither President Joe Biden, 81, nor former President Donald Trump, 77, is necessarily too old to be president. Both are engaged and active, though one is more active as a criminal defendant these days.

Their biggest collective political flaw is not their ages, it’s that they are blocking and discouraging younger people from getting a chance to lead the country.

No doubt the two nominees are certain that they are the most qualified public policy leader to guide the country and that they, more than anyone else, are best able to manage a nation of 335 million people. They seem to think that younger leaders are not capable enough. Their ego tells them so — and that’s a loud voice in their ear.

No disrespect to my elders, but it’s time that they — myself, at age 72, included — make room for others on the podium. We may be wise and witty and experienced and still active in our Social Security years, but we don’t have to be in charge forever. Nor should we be.

We had our time at the top, but now it’s time to let others try. And until we step aside and give others a chance, many will feel disconnected, disinterested and disheartened at the political direction of the country. Who can blame them. It’s their country for the next 20, 30 or 40 years, not ours.

Just because we are living longer with better medical care and healthier lifestyles doesn’t give us the right to extend our leadership past its expiration date. And that date should not be based on whether we can still give a speech, make a decision, convene a meeting or proclaim an unfinished agenda, but on whether younger people are ready to lead and deserve the chance.

A nation led by older people is more focused on Medicare than child care; more interested in senior discounts than the price and availability of infant formula; more preoccupied with remembering the past than looking to the future.


Though it’s not all our fault for hanging onto power with our arthritic hands.

The youngest generations need to put down their smartphones, take out the earbuds, click off the video streams or whatever else is on their addictive screen and sign up to lead. It should be their time, but only if they pay attention.

The middle generations need to speak louder — we old people often are hard of hearing.

The inattentiveness of 20- and 30-somethings creates a void, a lack of candidates for elected office, a shortage of volunteers to run community groups, an empty leadership chair that by default often is taken by older leaders who figure someone has to do the work.

The frustration of 40- and 50-somethings that they have to keep waiting while their elders refuse to step down leads many to give up and do something else with their life than run for office.

Just look at the Polident grip in Congress. The calendar says 20 members of Congress are in their 80s. The average age of members of the U.S. Senate is about 65. The average age in the U.S. House is close to 60.

There is good news in the Alaska Legislature, however, particularly in the state House, which has multiple young members who are not afraid of pushing and making their own decisions. It’s actually an area where Alaska is doing well.

Trump and Biden reflect more the age of Congress than of the country. That is not representative government. I hope the political parties eventually will summon the nerve to tell Father Time to sit down and let a younger crowd take over. It’s their turn.

Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal public policy work in Alaska and Washington, D.C. He lives in Anchorage and is publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel weekly newspaper.

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Larry Persily

Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal service in oil and gas, taxes and fiscal policy work. He currently is publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel weekly newspaper.