09 July 2008

Is America Ready for a [fill-in-the-blank] President?

Black: sure! Extremely old? Questionable.

A Gallup poll released today indicates that a higher percentage of Americans believe McCain's age will make him a less effective president than believe that Obama's race will make him a less effective president.

I have a hard time believing ageism is more pernicious than racism in this country. On the other hand, ageism is extremely ingrained and often overlooked. In part, it is ingrained and overlooked because it has some limited merit: in general, a person's age does impact his/her capabilities in a way that race does not.

Interestingly, if you scroll down through the poll results, they break it out by candidate preference. McCain supporters pretty much agree with Obama supporters that Obama's race does not impact his effectiveness as president. But 37 percent of Obama supporters believe McCain's age to be a negative factor, compared with only 8 percent of McCain supporters.

What gives? Is this a reasonable judgment to make about a 72 year-old man who wants to take on one of the most taxing jobs in public life? Or do Obama's young, progressive, enlightened supporters have a blind spot when it comes to valuing the elderly?

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