By Ayla D'Silva
American literary genius Mark Twain once quipped, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Unfortunately, we cannot all be so optimistic as the famous American author; contrary to Mark Twain, age is commonly seen as an indelible factor. In the current 2020 presidential race, which includes candidates ranging from thirty-seven to seventy-eight in age, we see ageism in its prime. In a recent democratic debate, forty-five year old Julian Castro questioned if Biden had ‘forgotten what he said in the two-minutes previous’, after Biden contradicted himself with buy-in policy to healthcare programs. Castro’s jab at Biden’s mental capacity provokes the question: is the potential presence of ageism in the 2020 race justified?
Castro is not the only candidate exploiting age and things associated to it; in fact, many other election affiliated people use age to their advantage -- and to others’ disadvantage. Representative Eric Swawell proclaimed that Biden should ‘pass the torch’ - a restatement of Biden’s exact words thirty-two years prior. Swawell wants the current politicians to ‘pass the torch’ to end gun violence, solve climate chaos, and resolve student debt. Although, it does not end here. Swawell also stated, “I don't think we can nominate a candidate who has been in government for longer than 20 years … These are issues that will affect us. I’ll be a president that will have to live with the decisions I made”. The California representative attested to the age of some presidential candidates, compelling citizens to support a younger candidate. Bear in mind, Swawell is thirty-eight years old, surpassing the presidential age requirement by a mere three years. While it may be considered rude to target his opponents’ age, this technique is an effective and persuasive route to take. Despite that, simply because it is efficacious does not beget justification. Alas, ageism enlarges the list of prejudices present in our world.
Therefore, we need to understand the role which ageism will play in the 2020 election. For the Democratic party, ageism poses a real threat due to its potential to alienate older voters. Ageist language is harmful for our society. To see it exchanged between potential leaders of the free world leaves voters apprehensive about the election. Alana Officer of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) writes how ageism is not considered a prejudice by society because of its, “largely implicit and subconscious nature”, for W.H.O.’s global campaign to combat ageism. This is another reason as to why ageism is such as complex problem. Along with the lack of recognition, ageism can result in various mental health issues. Campaign ads including the ‘comedy’ of ageism can be subconsciously noted as invasive and degrading. The distinct prejudice does not simply appear in presidential election paraphernalia, but also in: employment opportunities, health care, and the majority of media. In order for democrats to succeed, they need to secure older voters. The majority of Trump’s votes were from Americans aged 65 or more. Applications of ageism could potentially decide where the vote is swayed to.
The gross lack of reason does not render the technique useless. Exposing age has not only been used by potential candidates, but also by various marketing programs. The progressive group ‘Acronym’ released a video motivating younger democratic voters to register early; it featured senior citizens bragging about their control over political entities. One elderly man said, “Tax cuts for the rich? Hell yeah, I’m rich as f**k.” Another boasted, “Climate change? That’s a you problem. I’ll be dead soon.” Issues like taxing and climate change are just pieces in the intricate web which is the American government. By saying that these issues will not affect them leaves the younger generation to wonder: who will it affect? These campaigners want young people to long for revenge. They want them to feel unprotected. They want them to demand greater representation. Other videos showcase the elderly ordering the audience, “don’t vote”, invoking a reverse psychology effect. This technique is used everyday in order to get all Americans to vote because Swawell is right - many will have to live to see the effects.
No matter the use or misuse of age in the 2020 election, America will see its outcome soon enough. Along with its future president, the nation will be made aware of the true benefit -or lack thereof- of ageism in politics.