February 1, 2023

There is growing expectation in Washington that, in coming weeks, President Joe Biden will reveal that he will look for a 2nd term in the White Home.

It is just due to the fact that of Biden’s age that there has actually ever been any doubt about whether he would run once again. The president turned 80 on November 20; were he to serve another term he would be 86 when he left workplace in January 2029. Yet, health allowing, there is no factor not to anticipate him to do so.

United States President Joe Biden waltzes into his 80s.Credit: FLOTUS twitter

Considering that the 22nd change to the United States Constitution which enforces a two-term limitation on the Presidency entered force in 1951, every incumbent American president has actually looked for a 2nd term. 6 have actually succeeded: Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, George W Bush and Obama. 4 have actually stopped working: Ford, Carter, George H W Bush and Trump. Lyndon Johnson is challenging to categorize: he was re-elected in 1964 having actually remained in workplace for a year following the Kennedy assassination. Although eventually he did not run once again in 1968, he had every objective to do so, and just withdrew when he was pressed near to beat in the New Hampshire main. Kennedy himself made his fatal trip to Texas in November 1963 to lay the foundations for his re-election bid in 1964, which he would almost certainly have won.

Nevertheless, no incumbent has been as old as Biden. Will his age make the difference? Subject, always, to the caveat of his health, I doubt it. In Australia, we are accustomed to the idea that even long political careers end in their 60s (if not earlier). Not so in the United States.

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Senator Strom Thurmond Retired From The Senate After 48 Years’ Service

Senator Strom Thurmond retired from the Senate after 48 years’ serviceCredit: Reuters

When considering whether Biden would see his age as an impediment, it is instructive to consider the institution which shaped him: the US Senate. It was designed by the framers of the Constitution to be a body of wise elders (hence the Constitution prescribes a minimum age limit of 30). The etymology of the very word “Senate” is the Latin “senex” (old man). When Americans say “elder statesmen”, they really mean it. It is not uncommon for senators to serve into their 80s, in some cases their 90s.

Among the senators elected in last year’s mid-terms was Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, commencing his eighth six-year term at the age of 89. (Grassley has served continuously in elected office, as a State legislator, Congressman and Senator since he was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1959.) Biden served in the Senate with Grassley for 28 years. His other former Senate colleagues included Orrin Hatch of Utah (who retired after 42 years at the age of 86), Ted Stevens of Alaska (who also served for 42 years until he reached 87), Daniel Inouye of Hawaii (who died in office in 2012 at the age of 88, a fortnight before his 50th anniversary), and Dianne Feinstein of California (incumbent, who turns 90 in June and has not ruled out running once again in 2024). But the greatest of them all – at least in terms of longevity – was the legendary Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who died in June 2003 at the age of 100, having retired from the Senate just five months earlier after 48 years’ service. Thurmond began his public life in the South Carolina Senate in 1933; his continuous political service lasted one week short of 70 years.

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Had Biden not been tapped by Obama in 2008 to be his running-mate, he would very likely still be the senior senator for Delaware – and, like those and others of his senatorial colleagues, he would no doubt be planning to continue. Biden’s long service as a senator is key to understanding his future plans, because we are all shaped by the institutions in which we have actually our professions. In Biden’s case, it is the Senate, where age confers status, durability boosts power, and being an octogenarian is no issue at all.

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