Exploring Human Potential

Boomer Boomerang.

Posted on | July 1, 2024 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

Last year the New York Times Editorial Board asked the rhetorical question, “Can America Age Gracefully?” After last week’s Presidential Debate, the answer to the query seems pretty clear. “Apparently not?”

This is not simply a function of the graying of America (and her two Presidential candidates), but also a result of our unique form of Democracy that over rewards full-throated capitalism. It is simple math really. Wealth comes with power, and power delivers wealth. And given these realities, why would you cede control unless forced to by adversaries or the ravages of health or misfortune?

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are not alone. They are emotionally and physically tied to the Boomer Generation (born between 1946 and 1964) that reach age 65 between  2011 and 2029. Boomers currently constitute approximately 60 million Americans or roughly 17% of our population, but by 2034 will reinforce their dominance demographically. This is a function of declining birthrates colliding with projected rises in aging survival. The combination leads demographers to confidently predict that by 2034, the numbers of Americans over 65 will exceed numbers of American children ages 1 to 18.

There are many reasons why older Americans resist leaving positions of responsibility even as their physical and mental capabilities decline. Many cite financial concerns, fear of boredom, fear that isolation will accelerate their decline, or the belief (mistaken or otherwise) that their experience and skill is invaluable to their organizations. 

In corporate and non-profit organizations, mandatory retirement and succession plans are designed to counter balance these disincentives, and leave room for younger members to rise to positions of greater responsibility. But over the years, a legion of politicians, donors, political consultants and jurists have risen in lockstep, reinforcing extreme longevity in Washington and state houses across the land, even in the face of mental illness and obvious aging decline.

The New York Times Editorial Board weighed in again on aging, or more specifically on aging leadership, the morning following the debate. Accused by many of jumping the gun and under-stating the scale of the criminal threat of Donald Trump, they positioned their effort as a principled attempt “to protect the soul of the nation — the cause that drew Mr. Biden to run for the presidency in 2019 — from the malign warping of Mr. Trump.”

Speaker Mike Johnson, using a well-worn strategy (“No I’m not – you are”) was quick to suggest a late morning solution – apply the 25th Amendment to remove President Biden who is “not seen to be fit for the office, to not be up to the challenge.” Even a novice politician could have seen that argument would boomerang back to May 16, 2017.

That is when New York Times conservative columnist, Russ Douthat, penned “The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump.”  In that article, Douthat wrote “One does not need to be a Marvel superhero or a Nietzschean Ubermensch to rise to this responsibility. But one needs some basic attributes:  a reasonable level of intellectual curiosity, a certain seriousness of purpose, a basic level of managerial competence, a decent attention span, a functional moral compass, and a measure of restraint and self‑control. And if a president is deficient in one or more of them, you can be sure it will be exposed. Trump is seemingly deficient in them all.

The following day, there were response editorials. Here’s one in support of Douthat by Columbia Law Professor Jamal Green  He writes, “A President whose words are meaningless, cannot confidently conduct foreign policy. He cannot negotiate treaties, keep confidences or establish substantive relationships with foreign leaders.  He cannot be trusted to use the awesome and deadly powers of the military for legal and moral ends…in short, a compulsively lying president would be unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office.”

Other columnists that same day reacted in the negative to Douthat’s words, mainly because they did not believe that the 25th Amendment was designed for the purpose of removing somebody like President Trump. For example, Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg wrote, “It would be a grave mistake to use the mechanism of the 25th amendment to get rid of him…Sorry, Congress. If you believe Trump needs to go, you’re going to have to do it yourselves.” And, in fact, they made an attempt to do just that through impeachment several years later, an effort that failed to yield a Senate conviction.

Ian Tuttle that same day in the National Review wrote, “My colleague, Charles C.W. Cook wonders “just how much of a psychic shock such a move would inflict upon this country – especially on those voters who backed and liked Donald Trump… How would that look to the people who would believe that Trump had been removed by the very elites he had set out to vanquish?” 

And finally in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick wrote what many of us were thinking by then, “Donald Trump is the disease that plagues modern America, he’s a symptom. Let’s stop calling it a disability and call it what it is: WHAT WE ARE NOW.”

In a university lecture in the Spring of 2020, I reviewed the history of Presidential impairment and the various remedies when our body politic is confronted with a President like Trump who is “unwell.” The entire address in available online here.

In that speech, I laid out our options to deal with Trump: “Under severe circumstances, we basically have three choices. One is obviously to vote that person out at the next election cycle. And we’ve used that over the years. Second would be to impeach a president, and then convict him in the Senate.  That has been attempted recently. And the third approach is the 25th amendment that was enacted in the late 1970s. We’ll discuss the history behind that and what one is able to do with the 25th amendment and what one is not able to do.”

The rest is history. The body politic voted Trump out, but he steadfastly has denied the result, and boldly seized control of the Republican party and is their nominee once again for the Presidency. Along the way he has added “convicted felon” to his resume, though in last week’s debate once again insisted that “I didn’t have sex with a porn star.”

Whatever is one’s view on President Biden, the only question that remains for those who believe (as I do) that Trump is mentally ill and a threat to the future of our democracy, is this: What course of action best assures a resounding defeat of Trump and all his enablers in November? Let the deliberate and timely answer to that question guide all our actions over the very near future.


2 Responses to “Boomer Boomerang.”

  1. Sue Ross
    July 2nd, 2024 @ 9:30 am

    I couldn’t agree more!

  2. Mike Magee
    July 2nd, 2024 @ 9:14 pm

    Thanks, Sue, for the feedback!

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