- - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Youth is wasted on the young, so we’re told, but this year there’s not a lot of youth to waste. The young have been swept from the field. Barring a deus ex machina moment, one of the grayheads will win the White House. The 21st century may belong to the millennial generation, but not this year.

With none of the other 16 original Republican candidates left standing, Donald Trump seems to have clinched the Republican nomination. The New York real-estate developer and television reality-show star will turn 70 next month, and he ran down the other Republican candidates, one by one, with only a well-styled head of hair out of place. Ted Cruz, at 45 one of the fresh faces of the party, threw in the towel last week after taking a trouncing from the Donald in Indiana, and John Kasich, who turns 64 on Friday, followed the next day.

But for George Pataki, the former governor of New York who quit the race before it began, the Donald was the oldest Republican contestant this time. Most men his age are running for the men’s room, not the White House, but Mr. Trump has been a force of nature, filling television screens from early morning to late evening, relishing the unique rigors of a presidential campaign. If he becomes president he will replace Ronald Reagan as the oldest president.

Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, at 69 what the French delicately call “a woman of a certain age,” has not allowed a brain clot or coughing fits (which she treats with a bottle of the hot sauce she carries in her purse) obstruct her relentless pursuit of the presidency, which began when she met Bubba in law school in a previous century.

Hillary hasn’t been challenged by a surplus of candidates of her own party, like Mr. Trump has, but she can’t seem to shake her one remaining Democratic pursuer. Bernie Sanders, the white-haired king of the superannuated nation, shows every one of his 74 years but he is invigorated by the legions of followers young enough to be his grandchildren. Everything old is new again, including the failed and discredited 19th century-era socialism he prescribes for what ails America.

It’s hard to say why, in the brave new world of the 21st century, America, where youth is usually worshipped, is suddenly is addicted to leftovers from the previous century. If Hillary wins, pundits may credit experience that comes only with the passage of the years. If the Donald prevails, the pundits might be tempted to conclude that it’s the inspiration of his 46-year-old wife Melania, a former model.

Age is a universal preoccupation, but Ronald Reagan put the age issue to bed when he was asked in 1984 whether, at 73, he was too old to run for re-election against Walter Mondale, who was 56. The Gipper replied: “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.” Everyone, including Mr. Mondale, cracked up. But this is the year when old lives do matter.

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