Nikki Haley's proposed 'mental competency test' panned as 'ageist' and 'absurd'

Nikki Haley's proposed 'mental competency test' panned as 'ageist' and 'absurd'
image via Creative Commons.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, is drawing criticism after calling for mental competency tests for politicians who are older than 75. Haley’s recommendation appears to be a jab at President Joe Biden (who is 80) as well as former President Donald Trump, who is 76.

One organization that has called Haley out is the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. In a biting op-ed posted on February 17, the organization slammed Haley for taking a "cheap political shot" at Biden and Trump and argued, "Haley’s statement is blatantly ageist. Of course, of all the -isms — racism, sexism, able-ism, classism, etc. — the targeting of older people remains one of the most socially acceptable, probably leading Haley to believe that her jab at senior politicians was safe. That doesn’t make it any less offensive."

How "safe" Haley’s proposal is politically is debatable. The Republican Party’s base tends to be older, and Haley risks offending seniors who are likely to vote in GOP primaries. Florida, which appears to have become a GOP stronghold in light of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' 19 percent reelection victory in 2022, is full of retirees who are 65 or older.

READ MORE: 'Why not just pick Trump?' Journalist wonders why Republicans would nominate Nikki Haley

Twitter user Sheila Richardson argued, in a February 16 post, that if there are going to be "competency tests" for politicians, they should not be age-based and need to be applied to younger politicians as well. Richard cited far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), who is 36, as "Exhibit A."

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, lambasted Haley as both "absurd" and "ageist" during a Sunday, February 19 appearance on CBS News' "Face the Nation." The 81-year-old senator stressed that the competency of politicians should be evaluated, but not based on how old they are.

Sanders told CBS News, "We are fighting racism, we're fighting sexism, we're fighting homophobia. I think we should also be fighting ageism. Trust people, look at people and say, 'This person is competent, this person is not competent.' There are a lot of 40-year-olds out there who ain't particularly competent."

The octogenarian senator and self-described "democratic socialist," who is obviously quite sharp mentally, has been even more influential in his old age than he was during his youth. Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and left-wing economic views started an entire movement, influencing younger politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri).

READ MORE: Bernie Sanders: Benjamin Netanyahu 'cannot run a racist government' and ask US for money

Haley, a former South Carolina governor, is the second Republican to official enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary; Trump announced his campaign following the 2022 midterms. Haley's supporters have been touting her as an alternative to Trump and DeSantis, who appears to be gearing up for a presidential run but hasn’t actually made an official announcement.

READ MORE: Nikki Haley 'embodies the collapse' of the GOP: Republican strategist

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