It is sad that of the few acceptable forms of discrimination left in America, Barack Obama has hit on two of them in less than two weeks time. I know folks laugh when, as a gerontology minor, I bring up ageism from time to time. But it is important to remember that ageism can be just as damaging as any other form of discrimation or stereotyping.
Ultimately, stereotypes are dehumanizing and promote one-dimensional thinking about others. Elders are not seen as human beings but as objects who, therefore, can be more easily denied opportunities and rights. For example, elders are frequently misdiagnosed or denied medical treatment because they are seen as "old" and, therefore, incurable. Elders are also frequently denied employment or promotion opportunities because they are "old" and less productive. Such discrimination is also evident on the social policy level where the elderly are blamed for having medical problems and consuming public resources rather than seeing them as having human needs requiring appropriate social responses. Seeing people as objects also increases the likelihood that they may be subjected to abuse and other cruel treatment.
A final consequence of ageism is that by devaluing this segment of the population, a vital human resource is lost. This is contrary to many American values which entail respect for human worth and dignity. Cumulatively, the elderly represent a vast amount of experience, skill, and knowledge which this country needs to remain strong and true to its ideals.
Obviously I don't think he's a bigot, but this casts serious doubt on his ability to 'unite the country' if he's going to continue tossing under the bus nearly half of America's voters. At least they'll have company with the gay folks under there...
And speaking of gay folks, let the flaming begin!