One example: While campaigning in Las Vegas in 2019, Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack. He was hospitalized, two stents were placed to bypass his blocked coronary arteries and within two weeks, he was back on the campaign trail. file photo

Those who follow politics closely are constantly inundated with various theories as to why our country has become so polarized. Facebook, Twitter, MAGA, a biased liberal media, FOX News, George Soros, Warren Buffett, the Koch brothers are among the usual suspects depending upon your political orientation.

But a major culprit is the ability of the medical profession to not only extend life span, but to keep the bodies of aging politicians and judges -– who should be out to pasture — capable of maintaining a vigorous schedule.

Joseph Bentivegna MD

President Franklin Roosevelt died at the age of 63 from a cerebral hemorrhage due to uncontrolled hypertension. But in 1988, when then Sen. Joe Biden had a cerebral hemorrhage due to a brain aneurysm, it was competently treated and his political career continued.

Multiple examples exist. When President Trump contracted COVID, his obesity and age placed him at high risk for death or permanent disability. But he received outstanding care with a steroid to control his breathing (Dexamethasone) along with the anti-virals Remdesivir and Regeneron (a monoclonal antibody) and sailed to a quick recovery.

While campaigning in Las Vegas in 2019, Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack. He was hospitalized, two stents were placed to bypass his blocked coronary arteries and within two weeks, he was back on the campaign trail.

But it is not only the treatment of cardiovascular and infectious diseases that keep our aging politicians functioning. Hip replacements, knee replacements, cataract surgery and technical advances in hearing aids enable our politicians to have bodies of sixty-year-olds when they are in their eighties. Thus, it is likely that our 2024 presidential election will be dominated by Joe Biden, Donald Trump and possibly Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton – all octogenarians or close to it. And if the polls are to be believed, Sen.r Charles Grassley is about to win reelection in Iowa. Grassley will turn 90 next year.

This situation also extends to our judges, especially the Supreme Court. Our Constitution gives these judges lifetime tenure. But when our Constitution was written in the late 1700s, people died like flies. It was not unusual for a supposedly-healthy individual to contract an infectious disease such as pneumonia and quickly succumb.

But medical advances mean that appointees can serve for decades while those who become ill can be treated effectively. No where was this more obvious than in the case of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. This indestructible patient had colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer along with coronary artery disease. She survived multiple brutal surgeries and treatments.

But she perceived herself as healthy enough continue serving even though even though her liberal supporters strongly suggested she resign so that President Obama could appoint a like-minded successor. She refused and when she did pass away, President Trump replaced her with the conservative Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett is presently 50 years old and will probably live into her 90s.

Even the longest serving judge, Clarence Thomas, is only seventy-four years old. He could easily serve for another fifteen years as long as he follows medical advice. His like-minded colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, did not. He continued to chain smoke and eat excessively resulting in hypertension, sleep apnea and poorly-controlled diabetes. He passed away at 79.

As individuals rarely give up power unilaterally, various remedies have been proposed. After President Franklin Roosevelt served for fifteen years, the Constitution was amended to prevent a president from winning more that two elections. But term limits on a national scale have been ruled unconstitutional.

Republicans once proposed that Supreme Court appointments be limited to ten years when the court was dominated by liberals. But now they are silent while seething liberals outraged by recent decisions on abortion, gun control and climate change are proposing packing the court with another six judges so that they can return to legislating from the bench rather than dealing with the obstreperous voters.

But it is time for the younger generation to take over. Our 2024 presidential candidates should be Gavin Newsom, Pete Buttigieg, Ron DeSanctis and Nikki Haley. But this does not appear likely. Blame it on the doctors. Were used to it anyway.

Joseph Bentivegna MD is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.