Vox recently published a piece arguing the unacceptability of the fact that it is unconstitutional for Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for president… because of her age. (Per the Constitution, candidates for the presidency must reach 35 years of age by the time of inauguration.)
At age 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a rising star within the Democratic Party, and she is already making a national impact before her first congressional term commences in January. But regardless of her presence thus far, the facts are that she is 29-years-old and the constitution sets forth a minimum age of 35 that a potential president must meet before assuming office. Is it antiquated that candidates younger than 35 years are prohibited from running for the highest office? I’m going to say no, it isn’t. And here’s why:
Neuroscience has found that the human brain continues developing well into a person’s mid-to-late twenties. By age 35, the brain is fully developed and capable of coherent emotional, analytical, and intellectual processing. Are 20-somethings intelligent and emotionally aware? Yes, most of them are. However, when faced with the pressures, workload, and responsibility held by one of the most powerful offices in the world, it’s better for the candidate’s brain to have fully developed.
A driving factor behind the founding fathers’ decision to implement an age minimum for the presidency was experience. This means the experience that a candidate has. Experience in life, experience in politics, and experience in management. Older candidates enter office with the knowledge gained from multiple stages of life.
To date, the youngest president to enter office was John F. Kennedy, who was 43-years-old when he was sworn in. In comparison, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is 29-years-old. Imagine the life experiences and exposure that stem from an additional 10+ years. The 14 year difference constitutes a transition from a 20-something just entering the workforce to a mid-career professional. That’s a major contrast.
In the case of Ocasio-Cortez, she hasn’t yet assumed congressional office. Though she has been elected, she has not served a single day as an official congresswoman. She, like other freshmen in Congress, needs the time to experience her elected role before pursuing additional campaigns. After she serves time in her elected role, after she sits on committees, and after she fights for the passage of legislation, she will gain invaluable knowledge that will assist her in future roles… maybe even the presidency. But right now, she’s brand new to politics of any sort and she is entering with a blank slate. The difference in her knowledge base between today and a few years from now, after she has served in Congress, will be enormous.
The founding fathers took intentional steps to ensure that candidates running for the presidency are as prepared as they can possibly be. Enacting an age minimum protects candidates and constituents alike from immature and inexperienced leaders within the highest office. This is not to say that enacting an age minimum is a foolproof measure, nor is it an assertion that every potential candidate is experienced enough, mature enough, and/or prepared enough to handle the presidency, but an age minimum of 35 years is founded in logic and remains a commendable security measure. I believe that we need to give our founding fathers more credit for their choices.
It isn’t unconstitutional for Ocasio-Cortez to run for president. It’s unconstitutional for her to run for president right now. She’s only 29. There is time for her to gain experience in Washington DC, time for her to curate her platform, and time for her to run for president… in the future.