Now the ques­tion of age

The Star Democrat - - OPINION - SU­SAN ESTRICH To find out more about Su­san Estrich and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit the Cre­ators Syn­di­cate web­site at www.cre­ators.com.

It’s against the law to dis­crim­i­nate in em­ploy­ment.

As an old lawyer, I firmly sub­scribe to the canon of young doc­tors and old lawyers.

And old leg­is­la­tors, some of the time. Ni­cholas Pelosi would the King of the Hill, and no one would be com­ment­ing on his clothes. It should be called Oba­maPelosi Care. But Nancy Pelosi’s still 78, an old House Speaker who needs some youth­ful con­sorts, or what­ever it is ap­pro­pri­ate to call them. I call them can­di­dates.

Ron­ald Rea­gan was 76 when he left of­fice. And that was four years af­ter that ride to nowhere up the Cal­i­for­nia high­way in the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate of 1984, where the press fi­nally started rais­ing the “age” is­sue.

He was 72 at the time he took the ride. Seventy may be the new 50, but I was there and he sure seemed old.

Bernie Sanders will be 79 on Elec­tion Day 2020. Mike Bloomberg will be 78, and Joe Biden will be 76.

Bill Clin­ton is younger than any of the Big Three, and he’s been out of of­fice for 17 years.

Come 2020, Hil­lary Clin­ton will be a sprightly 73, and Eliz­a­beth War­ren, the baby of the group, will be 71. God will­ing, of course, all of them.

Bill Clin­ton was 54 when he left of­fice, and Barack Obama was 55. Ge­orge W. Bush was 61 when he left of­fice. Did they re­ally seem too young?

And dare I point out that Don­ald Trump will be 74 for the 2020 elec­tion, and 78 if he gets four more years. Why, af­ter watch­ing ex­actly who gen­er­ated all the ex­cite­ment last night, are Democrats fronting the plat­inum-an­niver­sary crowd? The 70s are no time to run for pres­i­dent, not when the party is teem­ing with new en­ergy and old re­sent­ments.

I don’t care who you are; ag­ing grace­fully is still an oxy­moron. Con­fronting mor­tal­ity, sag­ging skin, painful joints and grey­ing hair, if you’re lucky, has noth­ing to com­mend it but the al­ter­na­tive.

So it’s easy to un­der­stand why some of the most tal­ented and com­mit­ted peo­ple in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics have dif­fi­culty let­ting go. I’m not doubt­ing their abil­ity to do the job, if by that you mean the job of mak­ing ap­point­ments and de­ci­sions, and fac­ing end­less pres­sure and the like. But that’s the piece you only get to do if you win.

There is only one ques­tion for me at this point: Can any of the old-timers beat Trump?

Pres­i­dent Trump lost the House with the low­est un­em­ploy­ment rate in nearly 50 years. That is not easy to do. I’m not one of those Democrats who thinks he’s stupid, and not one who thinks his sup­port­ers are all de­plorable. I spent years on talk ra­dio, and even more dis­agree­ing with Sean Han­nity on Fox. It’s no fun to have peo­ple look down on you, which is how a good chunk of Amer­i­cans feel when they turn on the news — or lis­ten to elite Democrats.

But while it may be true that Trump’s base would ac­tu­ally like him to kill for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey (and not just get away with it, as he boasted he could), Trump’s base is not enough to re-elect him. That’s the prob­lem with bases. The base Demo­cratic vote go­ing into 2020 is prob­a­bly even greater, which means that the elec­tion will be de­cided by a com­bi­na­tion of the pref­er­ences of the peo­ple who aren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion and the in­ten­sity of those who are.

The pres­i­dent didn’t win the Se­nate this time; he just won the draw. The Democrats had 26 seats up on Tues­day — more seats up than any party has had to de­fend in the last hun­dred years — and the Repub­li­cans had nine. Twenty-seven Democrats won House seats Tues­day night and 14 Repub­li­cans. A vic­tory for the pres­i­dent? How do you fig­ure? There was never any chance of win­ning the Se­nate, and it had noth­ing to do with the pres­i­dent’s base.

In pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, you don’t start with a 3-to-1 ad­van­tage. Whether Trump can con­tinue to drive this coun­try apart de­pends not only on how Speaker Pelosi and her team nav­i­gate the dan­ger­ous wa­ters that the pres­i­dent so rel­ishes but also whether her col­leagues who are al­ready dial­ing for donors re­mem­ber what it felt like to be itch­ing for the old­sters to step aside and give them their chance. We had it, my friends. Now it be­longs to our kids — and grand­kids, even.

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