Mitch McConnell & Company: The ‘Old Age’ Of American Politics

September 19, 2023

In this age of old age, I am close to the subject as a matter of fact — I turn 75 in a couple of months.

Joe Biden will be 81, also in a couple of months (our birthdays are nine days and seven years apart) and age has become a topical topic nowadays with the T-Rump no chickenshit, spring chinchek (he’s a mental case age notwithstanding) and seemingly our entire governmental apparatus is run by old guys.
How do we balance the current election cycle with time?

An influence on this subject came this morning when I crossed Elie Mystal’s piece on the aging and current disturbing lifestyle of Mitch McConnell — he’s 81 and with apparent problems.
Politics of self shits on America:

Mystal, justice correspondent, and author of “Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution,” noted at The Nation yesterday McConnell will not go gently, or easily into that Senate good night — snips:

McConnell, of course, shows no sign of being willing to retire. In private calls, he has allegedly assured Republicans that he is “fine,” and I guess everybody is supposed to take his word for it. The most simple reason for his intransigence is the pride that seems to afflict every octogenarian politician in this broken republic. For reasons I hope to live long enough to discover, old politicians seem to think they are indispensable and will continue to run for office and cling to power until the great Voter in the Sky escorts them to a farm upstate. McConnell may simply be doing what others in his generational cohort do: refuse to cede the floor to the future.

But that explanation risks treating McConnell as a normal person, and McConnell is far from normal. He is perhaps the most successful congressional operator since Henry Clay and a man who wouldn’t turn on a light switch unless it somehow helped Republicans win political power. Whether or not McConnell wants to retire is irrelevant; from his perspective, he probably can’t. That’s because his home state of Kentucky has a Democratic governor, and a law McConnell helped engineer to limit that governor’s choices on McConnell’s replacement is probably unconstitutional.

In 2019, Kentucky shocked the country by electing Andy Beshear, a Democrat, as its governor (yada, yada, all politics is local). This year, Beshear is up for reelection, and he’s running against McConnell ally Daniel Cameron, who was last seen refusing to indict the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. Beshear leads Cameron by eight points, according to recent polling data.


Whether McConnell retires “gracefully” or orders his staff to Weekend at Bernie’s him until 2026 probably depends on whether Beshear wins reelection in Kentucky. McConnell may be unwell, but I doubt he’s forgotten “how to do politics.” Ironically, McConnell’s entire accursed career has probably done the most work to create the Senate conditions that require him to hang on until the bitter end. The Senate that McConnell created is one devoid of grace: It’s now just a raw exercise in obstruction, where even human frailty is exploited for partisan gain. Somewhere, I bet Ted Kennedy (whose death McConnell exploited to deny the inclusion of a public option in the Affordable Care Act) is watching McConnell’s travails with great interest.

Dead in the head for a long, long time anyway.
Beyond Mitch the frozen mess, America’s political seems embedded by the ancient — David Smith at the Guardian earlier this month samples the elderly waters:

Democrat Joe Biden, 80, is the oldest president in American history. Republican Donald Trump, 77, is the second oldest and current frontrunner for the party nomination in 2024. The Senate, average age 64, has one of the oldest memberships of any parliamentary body in the world. It is small wonder that dealing with America’s drift into gerontocracy is not top of its agenda.

“Both political parties are pulling their punches,” said Frank Luntz, a political consultant who has worked on many Republican campaigns. “Democrats have been quiet about McConnell because they know their own party is run by someone who has the same challenges McConnell has.”


Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said: “It’s lIke both parties are being led by decrepit leaders. Frankly, if there were people in the wings who could step forward, there would have been an effort.

“But in the Democratic party, if Biden’s not the candidate, it’s a free-for-all and in the Senate, if McConnell’s not the leader, the wings of the party are going to bash each other: there’s the Trump supporters and there’s the let’s-move-past-Trump. That’s what’s keeping Biden and McConnell in place: the venomous battles that would ensue as soon as they step down.”

This standoff creates a headache for party strategists on both sides going into next year’s elections. Jacobs added: “What’s going on here is handcuffing the Democratic communications masters. The talking points for going after McConnell just get turned around on Biden. The Republicans want to move past McConnell because going after Biden’s age is one of their very few talking points at this stage.”

There have been no such inhibitions for rightwing media, including Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity. Some dissident voices have also emerged in both parties. Dean Phillips, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota, has called on the president to retire because of his weak poll numbers and advanced age. Phillips told the Washington Post newspaper: “God forbid the president has a health episode or something happens in the middle of a primary.”


The oldest current senator, Dianne Feinstein of California, is 90 and was absent for months earlier this year after she suffered complications from shingles; she has said she will retire at the end of her term next year. Senator Bernie Sanders, the voice of progressives in the past two Democratic primaries, turns 82 next week. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa turns 90 later this month. A rematch between Biden and Trump appears the most likely scenario next year.

Sally Quinn, a journalist and author, noted the strategic quandaries for both parties. “Donald Trump is going to be 78 next year so the Republicans don’t exactly have a spring chicken on their lineup and are reluctant to go after Biden for his age when Trump is getting up there.

“It doesn’t help any of them to and it makes them look ungracious and unkind and unsympathetic, even though they’re all rolling their eyes privately and saying, ‘Oh, my God, they’ve got to go, they’ve got got to go.’ There isn’t anybody who’s not rolling their eyes over Dianne Feinstein. And the Democrats worry about Joe Biden: they think he’s done a great job and they like him but they also see that he’s 80, 81, and that’s old.”

Quinn was married to the late Ben Bradlee, who retired as editor of the Washington Post in 1991 at the age of 70. “He was asked to stay and he said, I want to go out at the top, I don’t want to be hanging around here and hear them saying, ‘Oh my God, poor old Bradlee’s really losing it,’ and so he went out on top. With my blessing, by the way – a lot of the spouses don’t want to lose the power and the influence.”

An ‘old man‘ to a youngster song for the old ages — Neil Young:

Drooling, or not, yet once again here we are…

(Illustration out front: Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity)‘ found here.)

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