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Fearful that either former President Trump or President Biden could get the presidency for a second term, Washington Post columnist Charles Lane argued for a constitutional amendment that would put an age cap on anyone seeking presidential office.
Besides keeping the office available to those with full mental capacity and less tendency for injury, Lane argued such an amendment would also be easier to use to block Trump from office than the January 6 hearings, and may prove more efficient than trying to invoke the 25th Amendment for future presidents.
Lane began his Thursday piece recounting how a majority of voters “are not excited” to see Trump or Biden run again in 2024. He wrote, “A CNN poll in late July found that three-quarters of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters wish the party would nominate someone other than Biden, while 55 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners do not want Trump as their standard-bearer.”
Lane lamented that a rematch between the two is still “possibly the likeliest” scenario, so he proposed his idea: “If only the Constitution had the following proviso: ‘No person who has attained the age of 75 years shall be eligible for election to the Office of President.’”
“That would bar second-term bids by both Biden, 79, and Trump, 76, forcing the country to pass the torch to a new generation, or at least someone born after the 1940s,” he declared.
The columnist touted this proviso as a practical and more “direct” tactic to keep Trump from ever entering office again. “Certainly such an amendment would be the most direct route to eliminating the danger of another Trump presidency, far simpler and more certain than trying to disqualify him via the House Jan. 6 committee’s revelations or an indictment.”
Lane made it clear that he favors the idea of the amendment as more of a way to end the political career of the former president than keeping the gaffe-prone Biden from office. “Precluding another four years of Biden would be a small price to pay for a never-Trump guarantee. Who knows? For that worthy objective, Biden himself might agree to sacrifice a shot at reelection,” he added.
The columnist admitted that a scenario in which such an amendment is passed prior to the 2024 election is unlikely. Either way, he argued the amendment should be pursued in the future. “Sooner or later, though, there should be serious consideration of setting a maximum age at which anyone may be elected president or vice president.”
“The simple scientific fact is that, on average, human physical and mental capabilities diminish as we age. And the stubborn political fact is that, unlike prime ministers in a parliamentary system, presidents are hard to replace between general elections without a crisis,” Lane asserted.
He then argued that since we have a minimum age of 35 for presidential candidates, we should be able to have an old age limit. “Nevertheless, the fact that the Constitution set a minimum age — 35 — confirms that age per se is a relevant qualification. Yes, ruling out those 75 and older might exclude many capable candidates, but so does ruling out adults 34 and younger.”
Arguing for why 74 is the “sensible” age cutoff, he stated, “Given that risks — illness, injury, cognitive decline — grow with age, and that the presidency requires a full-time, fully capable occupant, the 75-year rule would ‘de-risk’ the office and, by extension, the political system as a whole.”
As such, this amendment would “render the invocation of the 25th Amendment less probable,” Lane wrote. He concluded his column claiming that such an amendment would help the Constitution “adapt to new realities and help the system stay forever young.”