Nancy Pelosi turns 80 today. That’s simply too old to hold a position of national political power. The job is public service, not tenure.
This is not to suggest that octogenarians can’t live vigorous and meaningful lives. Empirically, many do. If you’re eighty and reading this article, well look at you, reading disruptive media, living on the sharp edge of the information era! Good for you, and I mean it. Most folks your age are content with “The Week.”
I have several family members right around 80. They’re fine people, but I wouldn’t want them running the country. It’s time to get some sensible legislation around this issue.
Dr. Kirk Daffner is the Chief of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, and Director of the Center for Brain/Mind Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Here’s his take on the aging mind.
“It’s extremely common for adults over the age of fifty to be concerned about a decline in their cognitive abilities. Some studies have suggested that upwards of 80% of such individuals have these kinds of concerns.”
Fifty? Yes, fifty. Now add three decades, and it becomes clear why Pelosi and Joe Biden (77) flub basic words and struggle to convey simple information.
Some common areas of cognitive decline:
- Speed of processing
- Ability to focus on two or more tasks at a time (multitasking)
- Rapid retrieval of information
Complexity of the Office
In an increasingly data-driven age, these are premium skills for a decision maker. Politicians in particular are tasked with knowing a fair amount about various, unrelated fields: science, math, history, geography, law, political science, theology, and economics are but a few. On top of that, they have to synthesize and speak to ever changing modalities of the zeitgeist: movements, fads, and cults of personality.
In other words, a good politician has to have a working knowledge of LGBT issues, identity politics, Antifa, Occupy, QAnon, pedogate, and various new forms of social media such as (Chinese spy device) Tik Tok. To be ignorant of any of the above is red meat to journalists and potentially offensive to some voters.
It takes savvy, constant engagement, and a decent amount of bullshitting to cover such a range of topics. It’s easier for Democrats to get by, assisted by a left-leaning or nakedly left media, what has come to be known as “liberal privilege.” But beyond partisanship, it’s a matter of performance.
Moreover, lives are at stake. When the red phone rings at 3 a.m., do you want a foggy Commander in Chief on the line with Xi or Putin? How about a medical emergency brought about by stress? What happens when, during a crucial moment (think 9/11, or the Bay of Pigs), the president has a stroke?
Is an 80 year-old as good as a 70, 60, or 50 year-old at quickly processing, multitasking, and retrieving information? Almost without exception, no. Are they as healthy? Almost without exception, no. And 80 is a fair finish line for holding national office.
According to the CDC, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.6 years old. 80 is a bridge too far. Pelosi isn’t going to step down voluntarily. Congress needs to draft legislation that shows her, and those like her, the door.
ps: Dianne Feinstein is 86!