Are President Biden’s recent poll ratings a result of ageism, the bias and unfair treatment of older people due to age? I submit that ageism is playing a substantial role.
We often proudly identify as a youth-oriented culture. In contrast, the senior population is often disparaged and held in low esteem — a form of negative prejudgment that is no different than other expressions of prejudice. That bias is evident in the views of many concerning Biden.
A large swath of Americans, helped by partisan criticism, focus on age before considering competency, thereby assuming that abilities are compromised. Such a viewpoint omits the job being considered. Older Americans perform many jobs, often far superior in quality than their younger counterparts. Scientific and even simple objective observation disputes ageism in the same manner that other prejudices, by their nature, are false.
Eighty years ago, women were considered weak and inferior, and indeed, no pregnant woman could work. No rational human would presently support such a belief. The same absurd prejudice applies to racism, where some Americans cling to irrational beliefs. Reductions in discrimination against women and people of color have occurred. Ageism is alive and well.
Ageism is a negative overgeneralization label applied to a group. As a label, it shuts down the full consideration of skills allowed in populations that are not so labeled.
To diminish a person applying for a job by labeling the person as old, without considering their ability, knowledge and experience, is discriminatory just as much as judging a person first by their gender or race is prejudice. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids age discrimination against people 40 or older.
If Biden were fired from a private company because of his age, his lawyers would have a strong case citing ageism. The test would be whether he was competent to do his job, in this case, governing duties. Unlike occupations that require physical precision, governing requires an understanding of government institutions, extensive knowledge of the Constitution and the law, social and listening skills, experience, empathy, and an ability to build relationships.
Physical challenges that sometimes occur in older people are not necessarily a limitation in the areas of expertise.
Unfortunately for Biden, his age is not being adjudicated in a court of law. It is assessed in the public arena. There, he has two formidable opponents.
The media have been unrelenting in emphasizing Biden’s outward signs of age, typically more often than those of Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump, a master of stagecraft, has throughout his life hidden age and health-related information. He assiduously works to avoid aging imagery. Instead, he cultivates pictures with youthful appearing people, especially young and physically attractive women.
Personal signs of age and poor health are hidden or distorted. Trump recently suggested that he weighs 215 pounds, a blatant lie of roughly 30 pounds. His staff carefully culls negative pictures whenever the former president plays golf.
Recently, he was interviewed while playfully handling a football, sending a message that he was still “in the game.” If you were at a Trump rally, you would see posters portraying a youthful, healthy Donald as a buff Superman or a boxer with six-pack abdominal muscles.
Trump’s father died seven years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, a little-publicized age-related fact. Trump’s “body mass index” is 31, a number that medically puts him in the obese category. His penchant for fast food, endless television watching, and other signs of a poor lifestyle are given slight attention relative to the distorted imagery of health and vigor displayed to the public.
Meanwhile, Biden often rides a bicycle for exercise, a practice that might be painful for the overweight Trump to manage. It might be worth a challenge between the two.
The two forces, media attention to Biden’s signs of age and a distorted picture of Trump’s health, have been very successful in cultivating ageism. If elected to the presidency, both men would be serving as octogenarians.
Trump’s candidacy has skillfully cultivated America’s already significant level of ageism while camouflaging his own age and health from that same prejudice.
Wise Americans should consider competency rather than the age of either man. When competency is the measure, our country benefits. When bias and prejudice prevail, we all lose.