By Quentin Choy
March 20, 2021
The ages of prominent Democrats in all three branches of government are being examined. President Joe Biden, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer are being considered too old by several in the party for their current positions.
Senator Feinstein (D-CA), is the oldest serving U.S. Senator in office. Feinstein’s age has become a painful topic for many in the Senate, and several people believe that she should retire rather than continuing to struggle in her Senate seat. Many believe that her stepping down from her role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee had to do with age and decreasing mental capabilities. Gavin Newsom, California’s governor embattled in a recall, was asked by Joy Reid on MSNBC if he would commit to nominating an African-American woman to Dianne Feinstein’s seat when she retired. Newsom said that he would, but Feinstein was angry that Newsom, a friend of hers, was offering replacements for her, even though she had no intentions to retire. Some commentators, including Gil Duran with The Sacramento Bee believe that Governor Newsom was throwing Feinstein under the bus to save his own skin from the jaws of a recall.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, an nominee from Bill Clinton is another prominent Democrat that some in his own party believe should retire. Drawing a parallel with the aging Ruth Bader Ginsberg who passed away in 2020 and was hastily replaced with Trump-appointed Amy Coney Barrett, many Democrats want Breyer to retire after learning the lessons from Ginsberg’s death. Ginsberg, who died at the age of 87 faced several calls to retire during President Obama’s presidency so that he could get a Democratic nominee confirmed by the Senate rather than having a possible Republican appoint someone to the Court with a lifetime term. With control of the presidency, House, and the Senate, Democrats feel that Breyer should retire so that a younger replacement can be easily confirmed, solidifying the party’s role on the Court.
Lastly, viral videos of President Joe Biden tripping walking up the steps of Air Force One have been seen by countless people, and the videos raise concerns over the president’s age. The president tripped three times up the stairs, and he has been mocked for his cognitive decline, which many people say is obvious. His reluctance to hold a press conference out of fear that his decline would be easily seen has been a major criticism of Biden from Republicans. Biden also accidentally referred to his VP as “President Harris” during a speech and could not remember the name of Lloyd Austin, his defense secretary during an announcement of two female generals, saying “I want to thank Sec … the former general … I keep calling him ‘General.’ My … the guy who runs that outfit over there.” Biden’s cognitive decline is obvious and has been a silent, unspoken criticism during both the Democratic primaries and the general election.
While I believe Senator Feinstein is wrong on the issue of guns and that she is too right-wing on several issues, I believe that she shouldn’t be forced to resign. I think that Feinstein should be allowed to serve until she feels she is ready to retire since California is such a Democratic state, that another Democrat will most likely replace her.
As for Justice Breyer, I believe his time to retire has come, and especially following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, he should know what the stakes are. The Democrats have a tenuous hold on the Senate, and as was seen in the refusal to nominate Merrick Garland when the Republicans were in control, a younger justice should be confirmed, which would also score President Biden a political victory.
As for President Biden, I have mixed feelings. At age 78, Joe Biden is the oldest U.S. president to serve in office. While Biden was known for gaffes throughout his political career, the physical and cognitive decline is becoming undeniable. I believe Biden should serve the rest of his term but should not run again for a second one.
While aging is a sensitive and difficult topic to discuss, especially regarding loved ones, in politics, aging comes with political consequences, and unfortunately, that means that some people need to step aside to make room for the new breed.
Image Courtesy of AP News, Bloomberg News, and The Los Angeles Times