How Old is Too Old?

It isn’t raised as an issue as often as race or gender, but amid a local county election last night and talk about inexperience by politicians like Barack Obama and Bobby Jindal (rising star Governor of Louisiana), the issue of age in a candidate’s campaign has really begun to disturb me. Of course, I realize that a person’s inexperience on youth or physical/mental deficiencies in old age can be a very legitimate issue under many circumstances. I suppose the problem I have then is when candidates use their age (or their opponent’s) to validate themselves (or invalidate their challengers).

I mention this today particularly because of an election held last night for the Chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization in New Jersey, currently one of the more highly contested races in the state. As I blogged last night about the election:

Twice today I heard the argument that the younger generation had to support Rob Ortiz because he was a young politician opposing an old member of the party. I was sent an email this morning telling me that as a Young Republican, it was my duty to support Ortiz because he was a fellow Young Republican. I really want to address this because I find this reasoning absolutely childish, empty, and pathetic. Certainly, I’m in favor of people of all ages getting politically involved, but isn’t it the liberals’ job to run a campaign based on race, gender, age, and other demographics? If Rob Ortiz’s plan for the party and the values he promotes are those that I support, then I’m all for him. But please, I’m already sick of hearing that I’m a self-hater because I support a male nominee for president over Hillary Clinton. I don’t know how much more of this meaningless reasoning I can handle.

To me, as long as age doesn’t equate to inexperience (with those too young) or to physical inadequacy (with those too old), it doesn’t need to be a factor when I cast my vote. And I don’t believe it should. I’m not sure what happened to people voting their values and their consciences, but I’m afraid it’s become less and less the norm. I suppose it’s easier for candidate to take the low road and campaign on identity politics rather than policy and ideology, but this should NEVER be accepted as a sufficient substitute. If it does, we can expect to see few in power other than the naively and arrogantly young, the ever-indignant feminist, and the race-card playing minority. Am I the only one who’s less than thrilled?

Perhaps it’s my fixation over traditional conservative principles that causes me to be offended, but I’ve been truly disappointed lately to have often heard Republicans of my own generation saying with disdain that it’s time to move out the “old guard” and replace them with the new, as if by default older Republicans automatically become useless and unwanted and young politicians (or aspiring politicians) instantly wiser, savvier, and more capable. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always had a tendency to “respect my elders” and appreciate what they have to offer with their experience. The way I see it, if a leader can fulfill all his duties, is still proficient, and exemplifies the right principles and values, any attacks by a younger opponent on the mere basis of age are petty and illegitimate.

This is not to say that there are never occasions when the “old guard” may become apathetic and/or inactive, but rather that politics should be about ideas and results, not an individual’s demographics. The candidates and leaders I choose to support – young and old – are those with the courage to stand up for conservatism and with a plan that can turn such standards into a qualitative reality.

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