Joe Biden is the 46th President of the United States. I have waited until now, two days after his inauguration, to write these words although he was declared the winner of the US Presidential Election by most media organizations over two months ago. He is the sixth Democrat to hold the office of President in my lifetime. There have also been six Republican Presidents in that time.
Since Election Day last November I have, like millions of people, read hundreds of articles and seen countless hours of TV news reports about what happened, what might happen and (as things turned out) what didn’t happen. I have been remembering previous elections and thinking about dates, birthdays and ages, and offer a few observations here.
As you are probably aware, Joe Biden is the oldest person to assume the office of President. Indeed he is older than any of his predecessors were when they left office. Ronald Reagan was 77 when he left the White House in January 1989. Biden turned 78 last November, after Election Day. If that seems old to you, bear in mind that he is still younger than Paul McCartney, and over two years younger than Ringo Starr, the other remaining Beatle.
The youngest US President was John F Kennedy, 43 when he took office. He and Biden are the only Catholics to serve as President, and both are of Irish background. Kennedy’s three immediate successors (Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford) were all born before him. Reagan was born before all of them, over six years before Kennedy.
I was born when Kennedy was in office but for most of my life the White House has been occupied by Republicans. This is true for everyone else born in the 1960s. It’s also true for everyone born in the 1970s, and everyone born in the 1980s up to the end of 1988, for now. If you were born after 19 January 1989, the White House has been occupied by Democrats for more than half of your life. Tomorrow (Saturday 23 January 2021) that date will reduce by one, and it will reduce by one for every day of this Presidential term.
My children, who are now 16 and 14, were both born while George W Bush was President. My son was born a week after Bush’s second election victory in 2004; my daughter arrived nearly two years later. There have been Democrat Presidents for well over half of my daughter’s lifetime. Since my son was born, there have been Republican Presidents for just over half the time. That will change when we get to 3 April 2021. That’s when the number of days in his lifetime when Democrat Presidents were in office will exceed the number of days Republicans were in the White House.
If, like me, you were born during JFK’s Presidency, you will have to wait until your 64th birthday for there to be equilibrium, an equal number of days served by Democrat and Republican Presidents, and that will only happen if the Democrats win again in 2024. If you were born while LBJ was President the same applies: there will be equilibrium when you turn 64, but if you were born during his second term (January 1965 to January 1969) the Democrats will have to win in 2024 and 2028 for this to be true.
For my parents’ generation the calculations are very different. Thanks to Franklin D Roosevelt’s four victories between 1932 and 1944, and Harry S Truman’s win in 1948, Democrats have occupied the White House most of the time that people born in the 1930s have been alive. Since FDR’s first win there have been 12 full four-year terms with a Democrat in office. The current Presidential term will make it 52 years of Democrats between 1933 and 2025. In the same period Republicans have been in office for 10 four-year terms (40 years in all). Both of my parents are dead, but my parents-in-law are still going strong, and they were born in the months either side of FDR’s first victory. If Republican Presidents are going to overtake their Democrat counterparts in terms of days in office during my in-laws’ lifetimes, they will have to win in 2024, 2028 and 2032, and my in-laws will have to live past their 104th birthdays. It could happen. I’ll keep you posted.