The absence of any gusts of righteous outrage about a poll that showed how Americans view the traits of prospective candidates reveal that ageism is our last acceptable bigotry.
The data shows that only atheism and the lack of any elective experience would make someone less likely to vote for a candidate. Indeed, the resistance to vote for a candidate who is 70+ topped any objections to previous drug use, extra marital affairs, taking anti-depressants, or being a long-term Washington politician.
I believe this data. And what makes it all the more telling is that the sample includes those over 50, a group who presumably wouldn't be less likely to vote for those over seventy. Which means that it took a ton of age-fearing young 'uns to make the number as large as it turned out.
In fact, I believe the response to the 70+ candidate is more honest than the finding that only 11% of those surveyed would be less likely to vote for a female candidate, and just 4% for a Black one. Political correctness has primed us to fire back the socially acceptance answers in those two cases, but age discrimination hasn't risen to the level of social reprehensibility where it's necessary to hide it, even in an anonymous survey.
The survey is actually no surprise, despite the torrents of media attention to the preternatural and extended youth of the boomers, the glories of Botox and Restylane, and the blurring of conventional demarcations of age. So even if you're thinking that with older people looking defiantly -- though unsettlingly younger, with baseball players continuing to wear those goofy, young-guy's uniforms into their forties, that America is truly re-defining chronology downward. That's a load of crap.
Old people are culturally imprinted as being unable to fully contribute to society; they can be relied on for their "wisdom", but that's very different than complete and relentless engagement with the world at hand. We won't trust them with our votes because we question their mental agility (Reagan was no help, here) and because here in America (as opposed to Europe) we are obsessed with the future, and old folks embody the past.
The media, of course, is the primary contributor to this. Movies and TV continue their manufacture of stereotypes and clichés about old-people, trafficking in heavy-handed jokes about memory loss, physical decline, or sexual dysfunction. In the case of men, it's a Viagra-induced, satyr-like lecherousness (as in Peter O'Toole's last, pathetic movie); in the case of women, a post-menopausal horniness.
Engaging with the media today for a 70-year old must be like it was for Blacks in the Amos and Andy, watermelon era. Or like it was for Hispanics, back in the day when every Latino belong to a gang and carried a switchblade, (A word you hardly hear, these days. Where have all the switchblades gone?)
This data should serve as a cautionary blast of reality for those boomers who do not expect to go gently into their dotage, and who are expecting to march into their sixties, seventies and even eighties as hip, cool, and wildly relevant participants in society. You may not see yourself as heading for the rocking-chair exit as your parents did. But the rest of America sees it differently. In fact, they want you to rock on in a totally different way than you ever expected to.