Back In My Day: Let’s chat about Biden’s “Old Guard”

Despite being referred to as a “senior center” by the same publication which called for a more inclusive and appropriate approach to aging a month prior, the administration of President Joe Biden is truly one of the oldest in the history of the United States. Biden himself will be the oldest president in U.S. history at 78 years old, beating former President Donald Trump who was only 70 years old during his inauguration. 

Promising to appoint the “most diverse Cabinet in history,” Biden has appointed several individuals that he believes are representative of the country he will hopefully serve upon his inauguration. 

Many political analysts have noted that this cabinet, albeit diverse, resembles an “old guard” philosophy. According to Merriam-Webster, the term “old guard” refers to ideas originating from “the conservative and especially older members of an organization” or “a group of established prestige and influence.” The nomination of Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary seems to be the only highlight of youth, yet this older cabinet has many young Democrats concerned about whether Biden’s administration will rebuild and move forward into the future or simply regress to traditional views. 

Frankly, these decisions are for good reason. I’m not going to babble on about how it’s a guarantee that this new administration will pave the way for a stronger democracy — I’m no crystal ball, I’m just an aspiring gerontologist. We are simply unsure of the precise rationale behind some of these cabinet decisions; however, we should have a bit of faith in the politicians we’ve chosen through this forsaken, far from perfect, election structure. 

“But Lois,” you, the inquisitive reader asks. “So what am I supposed to do about it? Why shouldn’t I stress too much about these older folks taking office? How about the youth vote that carried Biden to the presidency?”

Those are great questions to kick off this column again. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. 

The past four years — especially the past few months — have been wild, unpredictable and hectic. From a bat in China to a mob in the Capitol, humanity and the United States have really been through a lot. Maybe this cabinet is simply what this nation needs right now. In contrast to the prior administration, they possess years upon years of political experience, many hailing from the Obama administration. Their resumes are truly stacked.

In many ways, this revival of the “old guard” is a simultaneous regression and progression — a sort of static that gives us an opportunity to bounce back rather than continue further downward into conspiracy and violence. It’s a regression literally, in the sense that we’re taking former officials and placing them back into similar positions, yet it’s a progression in terms of diversity and moving forward from the previous administration. 

From gerontology, we know that older people are not at all stagnant; they learn and grow just like anyone else. This administration is fully capable of learning from recent history and building upon what they know already works. But for now, Biden’s priorities should be aligned with getting the country back on track before pioneering a new future. Current times are radically different from anything we’ve seen in history, which ought to be kept in mind as we rebuild our communities. 

This does not guarantee that life will be fine and dandy for the next four years. We know that some of Biden’s nominees, like Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have political and corporate ties that may conflict with the interests of the people — sadly, that just seems to be the way with politics nowadays. However, we are poised to see dramatic leadership changes throughout Congress and the various levels of government with the new administration, and while change isn’t always necessarily a good thing, think of it as a “changing of the guard.”

Biden brings in plenty of experience to the table himself, but with this comes some concerning policy shifts over the years. For quite some time, his controversial Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was a stain on his political career, as well as his previous stances on LGBTQ+ marriage laws and foreign trade. Today, Biden is often referred to now as the “centrist Democrat,” and we see the side of Biden that stands for “We the People” and embraces new cultural and social practices. It is this transition, or character arc if you may, that is a testament to why we can place a bit of trust going forward in this “old guard.” 

This administration has the potential to rejuvenate the American way of life through the thick of this pandemic and long afterwards. Biden and his team bring not only the wisdom and experience but passion and dedication, which will hopefully carry us for the next term. 

When we’re appointing the secretary of space defense or whatever position is coming next in our nation’s cabinet, we can look back to the administrations of today and fondly recall, “Back in my day…”

Lois Angelo is a sophomore writing about the intersections of gerontology and social issues. He is also co-chief copy editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Back In My Day,” runs every other Tuesday.