When I was an undergraduate and Ronald Reagan was winning the hearts and minds of my generation, a number of left-of-center pundits were befuddled. They had come of age in the 1960s — or had observed that era with enthusiasm. They couldn’t understand how a man so old could find such favor with a crowd so young.
A lot of it had to do with the Gipper’s energy. He just didn’t seem old. He spoke with passion and conviction. He could spin a yarn as if he were talking to his neighbors at a backyard barbecue. When he talked about one man’s difficulties or another’s accomplishments, we believed he was relating the story of a person he knew.
He never lost the common touch. Not just that. He was always looking forward, rarely reminiscing about the good ol’ days. With his face turned toward the horizon, he knew tomorrow would be a better day.
But, Mike Castle in no Ronald Reagan.
And that’s one reason, I believe, he Castle lost last night. He might be just two years older than the Gipper was when that latter won the White House, but he seems a much older man. When he speaks, he sounds not like your friend, but like an elected official, a conscientious one, to be sure, but one more versed the arcana of legislation and the legislative process than the concerns of his fellow citizens.
He just looked old. A nice old man, to be sure, but an old man. As Ann Althouse asked, “why was a 70-year-old man running for a first term in the Senate?” (Via Glenn.)
On Monday, I recall clicking on an article about the Delaware Senate race. Seeing his picture, I first thought the web-site’s editors had substituted an image of more genial Harry Reid. He had a delightful hint of a smile on a his face, like a grandfather delighting in his grandson’s first steps. A pleasant smile perhaps, but not the often puckish grin of the Gipper.
And this got me wondering. Did Mike Castle’s age (he just turned 71) contribute to his defeat last night?
If so, while his loss may compromise Republican chances in the First State, they could help Republicans in other races across the country. Reid in just five months younger than Castle and lacks the spring of the Gipper’s step — or the puckish glint in his eye. Barbara Boxer a year younger than Reid, Jerry Brown more than two years older (than Boxer).
It’s not that age should be a hindrance — it wasn’t for the Gipper. It’s that when some politicians to borrow an expression, “wear well.” Like Reagan in the 1980s, Clint Eastwood may look like he’s been around the block a few times, but he wears his eighty years well.
Ronald Reagan retained his appeal, largely because his ideas, his optimism, his love for this great country, kept him young, even into his 70s. Other leaders may also a retain a similar vigor well into their “golden years.” But, Washington does seem to age certain people. And they do look worse for the wear.