Old man McCain cannot carry nation forward

On Jan. 8, 2008, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Gloria Steinem in which she attempted to parse the role of sexism and racism in the Democratic Primary race, which by that time had dwindled down to just two candidates — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Although some disagreed with the analysis of the two candidates within the contemporary political arena, Steinem raised important new questions to the historical debate of which of the two identities was more salient with the American public — race or sex, stating,

“So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race…”

However, given that the Republican Party seems to have finally settled on a candidate and will begin to garner the support and build the strength that they believe will be necessary to continue their foothold in the White House, a new factor must be brought into this equation; the issue of age — specifically of John McCain’s age — has only begun to get serious attention from the media. To date, the issue of McCain’s age has either been the butt of jokes on late night television or the focus in the conversation about his health. However, it seems that the issue of age is starting take on an entirely new character within a democratic contest that has honed in on change in the status quo, and will only become that much more prominent and pertinent as the country inches towards the November election.

In a piece yesterday by the ABCNews Polling Unit, it was evident that in a match-up with McCain vs. Clinton or McCain vs. Obama, both Clinton and Obama have an edge over McCain; each appeals to general electorate in his/her own ways. However, the piece offers that “Obama’s race still rates as a slight net positive for him, as does Clinton’s sex for her, compared with the net negative of McCain’s age. Americans by a 23-point margin are less enthusiastic about McCain given the fact that he’d be the oldest first-term president.” Whichever way the Democratic primary goes, the issue of age and how age relates to either sex or race will have to be given even more attention than in yesterday’s piece.

I tend to think that the age factor will be enormously important, particularly in the minds of newer and younger voters such as myself. In many ways, this era — with the Iraq war, the discontent with the established and current government, the failing economy and just the general lackluster and disillusioned feeling and morale of the American people — is analogous to the eras of the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights Movement. There is a certain hope and youthful vibrancy that is most clearly evident in Obama, semi-evident in Clinton and that seems entirely absent in McCain; even if McCain and the republican party were focusing on a campaign that promoted change (which they are not), his gray hair and overall aged appearance would entirely betray that message.

Although it may seem rather simple or small-minded, the only perceived benefit to McCain’s age is that he has an “old-timer appeal.” An appeal that might extend both to his fellow Vietnam Way veterans as well as senior citizens who may not only shy away from change but who may be entirely turned off by a candidate who not only would support policies that change the status quo of the government, but who by his or her very presence in the office would challenge the historical make up of our past presidents — white males with their white wives as first ladies.

Granted, my analysis of the age question may be viewed by many as being as off the mark as Steinem’s piece was. However, I think that in order to be informed, educated and active participants in this political arena, we must force ourselves to contextualize and problematize our candidates — both their politics and their demographic make-ups within our own historical and contemporary geography. Steinem forces her readers to consider the question, even if they do not agree with her conclusion; now I ask the same of you.

Thameka Thompson is a sophomore in Silliman College.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Dear Lord, someone get this girl an editor.

    1. "Steinem raised important new questions to the historical debate of which of the two identities was more salient…" The "question" raised by Steinem is at least as old as identity politics itself, i.e. neither new nor important. Moreover, questions are not raised "to" a debate. Salient is not a proper word choice.

    2. "However, given that the Republican Party seems to have finally settled on a candidate and will begin to garner the support and build the strength that they believe will be necessary to continue their foothold in the White House, a new factor must be brought into this equation; the issue of age — specifically of John McCain’s age — has only begun to get serious attention from the media." Sigh.

    3. "In many ways, this era — with the Iraq war, the discontent with the established and current government, the failing economy and just the general lackluster and disillusioned feeling and morale of the American people — is analogous to the eras of the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights Movement." Well, inasmuch as those are the only two "eras" one is likely to study as a Yale undergraduate these days, I can see why you'd make this claim. However, those two "eras" were completely different from one another, let alone our current "era." I submit you know next to nothing about the state of the economy or the morale of the American people in the 1950's and early 1960's. MLK led a movement you feel is characterized as having had a "general lackluster and disillusioned feeling and morale"? And you believe the economy was "failing" during both the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam War era? This is rather basic factual territory, and you're about as wrong as you could possibly be. One might have selected any "era" at random throughout the course of human history and would surely have landed on a better candidate for a "failing economy" than post-WWII America.

    4. "An appeal that might extend both to his fellow Vietnam Way [sic] veterans as well as senior citizens who may not only shy away from change but who may be entirely turned off by a candidate who not only would support policies that change the status quo of the government, but who by his or her very presence in the office would challenge the historical make up of our past presidents — white males with their white wives as first ladies." Not a sentence. Would be a god awful one if it were. However, it is refreshing to see that every four years, without fail, a cadre of newly qualified voters comes along to anoint "he or she" who will surely change the status quo of the government! How, I wonder, would the presence of a black man or a woman (one who's already inhabited the White House for 8 years by the way) "challenge the historical make up of our past presidents"? Will our living past presidents spontaneously combust, their collective "make up" torn asunder? Even if true, I doubt that even Mr. Obama will be able to unearth the corpse of William Howard Taft and "challenge his make up."

    5. "Granted, my analysis of the age question may be viewed by many as being as off the mark as Steinem’s piece was." That's a bit unfair. Ms. Steinem has been at this for centuries; keep it up, you'll get there.

    6. "However, I think that in order to be informed, educated and active participants in this political arena, we must force ourselves to contextualize and problematize our candidates — both their politics and their demographic make-ups within our own historical and contemporary geography." Without a doubt my favorite sentence of all! Utter lack of self-awareness? Check. Dripping with irony? Check. Wildly inflated sense of self-importance? Check. And you even tossed in a made-up American Studies word which I'd not heard before: problematize! Thoroughly enjoyable. "Jim, could you come here for a second? I really think we need to problematize this issue a little more."

    Anyway, having contextualized and problematized this piece within my own "historical and contemporary geography," I've come to the conclusion that Yale students can't write and the YDN will print any misconceived, poorly informed liberal screed that lands on its desk.

    Yes we can.

  • heartsurgeon

    you are an ageist - you are discriminating against a group merely because they are old!! how discriminatory! The are in fact laws against discriminating against people based on age…

    fortunately for Sen. McCain (and the country) naive young people are a minor voting demographic (to slacker to get registered and vote). People over the age of 65, however, vote in great number…

  • Movie Star Man

    The 60's radical Jerry Rubin, who is famous for his line: "I used to say don't trust anyone over 30" has sobered up in the interim, and now he says: "Now I say don't trust anyone under 50."
    Of course you can be near 90 and voting for either Hillary or Obama, and you can be 20 and voting for a Republican candidate.
    The advantage of youth might be more energy, but some wisdom does accumulate as the years go bye.
    By the way, Jerry didn't like turning 50. Quote: "'It scares the hell out of me,'' said Mr. Rubin, who as a young radical in 1967 dropped dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and campaigned to elect a pig as President of the United States."

  • heartsurgeon

    I read this vacuous op/ed again, and felt compelled to respond one more time.

    This is an intellectually lazy piece, punctuated by displays of lack of common sense, to wit:

    "There is a certain…youthful vibrancy…semi-evident in Clinton…absent in McCain…his gray hair and overall aged appearance would entirely betray that message"

    Sen. Clinton's (a 61 year old post-menopausal woman) only "vibrancy" comes courtesy of her hair dye and make-up consultants, without which, you might mistake her for Sen. McCain. Are you suggesting we pick a President based upon use of hair dye and cosmetics??

    I suppose analyzing political positions would just be to mentally challenging for you "young folk"