Should we put a cap on the age of presidential candidates?

By Michael P. Riccards

I have always loved conventions, and I attended two of them. They are P.T. Barnum at his best, but in fact they have had an impact on this nation.

At the convention of 1860, the Republicans (then a new party) finally overcame Sen. William Seward’s lead and nominated Abraham Lincoln, a decision that had tremendous consequences for the nation. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson finally managed to overcome a Democratic deadlock and won the nomination and went on to reshape the world. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt, facing intense opposition, garnered the Democratic nomination. At the time. he was considered shallow and lacking in leadership qualities. He became the strongest president in history.

Today. we operate under an 18th century constitution that mandates an age limit for presidency – 35, which represented maturity in those days. But now we should consider a limit on the age that presidential candidates can reach before they can run.

Frankly, it is excessive for the nation to be faced with two 70-plus candidates from the major parties. Studies indicate that the best age for a president should be in the 50s. Two presidents were elected in their early 40s: JFK and Teddy Roosevelt.

The presidency is a difficult job if one takes it seriously. It is doubtful if one can emulate Calvin Coolidge who slept 12 hours a night.

Even Franklin Roosevelt died in his 60s. Wilson had a stroke that incapacitated him in the last two years of his life. He actually wanted to run for a third term in 1920. Teddy died out of office in his 60s, despite his rough-and-ready reputation.

To elect a man close to 80 is just not sound medically, politically and constitutionally. We must remember that the Founding Fathers lived in an era when people died younger, so they never expected that we would face this problem.

The American people after this election should amend the basic charter to reflect good sense and a knowledge of health research. No person should be nominated who is over 66 and would therefore turn 70 while in office. Anyone who turns 66 while in office should not be eligible for re-election.

Michael P. Riccards, a former college president. is the author of 30 books, including a two-volume history of the presidency, The Ferocious Engine of Democracy, and the recently published Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief. He is providing the Jandoli Institute with commentary and analysis about the 2020 presidential campaign.

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