July 23, 2024

Chris Honoré: Age and the presidency

President Biden age
President Joe Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act, one of his key achievements. Screen capture from C-SPAN video
April 29, 2023

Biden is our oldest president and arguably the most accomplished in decades; voters may have to balance his years versus his deeds in 2024

By Chris Honoré

As the press awaited President Joe Biden’s official announcement that he would run for a second term, it was inevitable that voters would be polled regarding his job performance. And it’s indisputable that during his first two years in office, Biden signed a blizzard of bills, and he has arguably been the most accomplished president since Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.

Chris Honoré

Consider the following:

The nation is in the process of making the largest investment in our infrastructure since the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System (bridges, highways, railroads, tunnels, ports, airports, clean water, and both urban and rural high-speed internet across the nation). During the last two years a record 10 million Americans have applied to start new businesses. Some 20,000 projects will put to work thousands of Americans, using products made in the U.S. The cost of insulin for those 65 and older has been capped at $35, and keep in mind that there are 15 million Americans under the age of 65 who suffer from Type 1 diabetes and continue to pay exorbitant prices for insulin.

Biden has passed 300 pieces of bipartisan legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act. He has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, the Electoral Count Act and the Respect for Marriage Act, which allows Americans to marry the one they love. Unemployment is 3.5%, a 50-year low, plus well-paid manufacturing jobs have increased by 800,000, exceeding the numbers of the last 40 years.

Biden has passed the most consequential gun safety bill in decades, referred to as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. It includes red-flag provisions that target those who might be a threat to others or themselves and it makes it more difficult for domestic abusers to purchase guns.

He has made a generational investment in American industry and signed the CHIPS and Science Act calling for investing $170 billion in the Department of Energy. He made one of the largest investments in mental health care at a time when depression and anxiety are on the rise, especially among young Americans.

Biden is committed to rebuilding the middle class from the bottom up and the middle out. Medicare can now negotiate drug prices. The cost of gas continues to decline, and some 500,000 charging stations for electric cars will be built in response to global warming. And don’t forget his admonishment that corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, while pointing out that some pay zero.

Given all of the above, here is what strikes me as profoundly confusing: Biden’s poll numbers have remained under 50%, with one brief exception in 2022. In a recent Langer Research Associates poll, 75% of voters opined that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Yet, given all that has been accomplished in the last two years, I wonder what direction Americans would consider the right direction? And according to recent polls (PBS/NPR, Marist), only 4 in 10 Americans approve of the job Biden is doing running the country. He is struggling with independents and his numbers are soft with Democrats and left-leaning demographic groups, their enthusiasm for a second term dwindling.

All things considered, all I can conclude is that the ennui felt by Democrats is connected to his age (80 today and 86 at the end of his second term), and feel that it’s a liability.

Even now he is the oldest president in U.S. history, and there are those who point to his stiff gait, gaffes (many caused by his life-long stutter), dry cough, and wonder if someone younger, with more stamina and sharpness, might be better suited to the job. Yet when Biden is asked about his age, his consistent reply is, “Just watch me.”

How the Republicans will use age as a wedge issue during the 2024 presidential campaign remains to be seen. Ageism is an interesting word, and clearly we are a nation that is youth oriented. But how age, wisdom, experience and accomplishments come into play will be interesting to observe as 2024 soon gains political momentum.

Email Ashland resident Chris Honoré at

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