Buttigieg Plays the Age Card Against Bernie Sanders
The 2020 crop of Democratic candidates is noted for the number of those who are elderly. Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders are all in their 70s. Indeed, the man whom they seek to replace, President Donald Trump, is also past 70, though his energy and feistiness suggests a man much younger than his actual years.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana is the exception among those top tier Democratic candidates. At 37, the first openly gay presidential candidate would be the youngest person to be elected to that office should he succeed. Buttigieg is trying to take full advantage of the gap between his age and those of some of the people he is running against. The Washington Examiner explains.
“CBS News host Tony Dokoupil grilled the 37-year-old South Bend mayor during a Thursday interview about why he did not ‘have a majority of young voters in this country,” given that he is the youngest candidate on the ballot, and how he may be “out of touch.’ ‘No, but it is certainly the case that often younger candidates tend to attract more support from older voters,’ Buttigieg said.”
So, why is Mayor Pete not getting more younger voters, given his youth?
“Buttigieg then explained away his low support by saying he also supported Sanders when he was young. ‘There is going to be a continued process to earn support across the coalition, but it’s certainly the case that many of the younger voters are more attracted to — for example, the Sanders campaign definitely has more young voters,’ he said. ‘I was a big fan of Bernie Sanders when I was 18 years old.’”
Presidential candidates have been playing on their youth and the supposed energy that comes with it since at least the time of Teddy Roosevelt. Indeed, the first President Roosevelt was so exuberant in his manner that pundits at the time suggested that to understand him one had to remember that at heart he was really eight years old.
John F. Kennedy also highlighted his youth, talking about how a “torch had been passed” to a new generation, implying the man he was replacing, Dwight Eisenhower, was too old and set in his ways to handle the challenges of the modern age of the 1960s.
Of course, Buttigieg’s playing the age card against Bernie Sanders, who is 78 yeas old and, if elected, would become the first octogenarian president of the United States, was a bit clever, perhaps too much by half. Buttigieg was 18 around the time that 9/11 happened, fairly recent in modern memory.
Ronald Reagan was attacked because of his age when he ran for president in 1980 and then for reelection in 1984. During the first presidential debate against Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential contest, Reagan seemed to show his age, which caused some in the media to express doubts that he was up for a second term.
However, President Reagan recovered neatly in the second debate when he said, “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
The quip brought the house down and sealed Mondale’s 49 state defeat that occurred just a few weeks later. Even Mondale, who by that time had been a United States Senator and a Vice President for 20 years and was 56, had to laugh at the burn he had just received at the hands of the Gipper. As pundits said at the time, age was not just a matter of years, but in manner and energy. Reagan had both in abundance.
The question arises, why isn’t Buttigieg getting more younger voters than Bernie? Common Dreams suggests that the elderly “democratic socialist” is crushing the other candidates where young voters are concerned in California.
“Among respondents under the age of 45 who answered the CNN poll, 32% said they were most likely to support the Vermont Democrat. Just 13% said they currently back former Vice President Joe Biden, while 18% expressed support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), giving Sanders a 13-point lead with potential voters in that age bracket.”
Nationally, Bernie’s support among the young is even more impressive, 52 percent among under 35 voters. In the meantime, Buttigieg’s supporters tend to be older.
The common explanation among pundits is that younger people, with no memory of the Cold War and relative ignorance of the costs of socialism in places like Venezuela, like Sanders because they like his socialism. The 2020 contest is not so much one of personalities but of ideas. Sanders claims that people are ready to a “political revolution.”