Congress is aged

Photo by Caroline Betz Student Publications

The current President is older than ever before, and members of the Congress have only been as old as they are today twice in the Senate and three times in the House of Representatives since 1789. While the median age of the U.S. population has remained relatively stable since the 1990s, the median age of Congress has been steadily rising since the 1980s. This desperately needs to change. While American politicians have been getting older for decades, we are now reaching a boiling point where the consequences of the aging members of Congress are numerous. Additionally, the disconnect between the beliefs of most Americans and the legislation being passed is entirely out of alignment. One of the largest hurdles that President Joe Biden must face if he hopes to win a re-election, is that the public, regardless of political affiliation, has come to the conclusion that he is far too old to be considered fit for the position. 

As of August this year,  77% of the American public believes that Biden is unfit to effectively serve another term as our president due to his age. This belief transcends both political affiliation and age, with the majority of Democrats and Republicans between 18-29, 30-44, 45-49 and above 60-years-old all agreeing on this particular issue. In August of this year, it was revealed that Senator Dianne Feinstein has signed over power of attorney to her 66 year old daughter Katherine. After a series of moments in which her capacity for sound decision-making ability has appeared to be dwindling, such as appearing to not recall her months long absence and appearing in a state of extreme confusion during a vote in the Senate, Feinstein’s fitness as a politician has been called into question by many Americans. 

One of the largest discrepancies between actions taken by the federal government and the desires of the average American citizen comes in the form of action to combat the climate crisis. The percentage of Americans who believe in climate change has been steadily rising to 74% in some of the most recent polls gauging public opinion on climate related issues.  Younger Americans are more open to larger scale changes in policy to combat climate change. In particular, they, as a group, are more supportive of significant shifts away from fossil fuels altogether, but 68% of all Americans say that they are in support of shifting the sources of our energy to include more alternatives to fossil fuels. 

The gap between the views of most Americans and the lack of action being taken by the government to help combat climate change has led to the majority of Americans expressing the belief that the government is neglecting action in this key area. More specifically, 56% of Americans believe that the federal government is doing too little to combat the impact of climate change, and 58% believe that state governments are also doing too little. Given the trend that the younger a person is, the more likely they are to believe in climate change and that legislative action ought to be taken, it is far from a stretch to attribute some of the inaction of the government on climate change to the rising age of Congress and the President. 

As shown in the case of Senator Dianne Feinstein refusing to retire, even when she has reached a point where her daughter now has power of attorney over her, many politicians refuse to retire at a reasonable age. Some politicians are starting to retire and are vocally citing the need for younger politicians to take their place. Last week, Senator Mitt Romney announced that he is not going to run for re-election to make way for younger Americans to take their place in politics, and he issued a call to action for other politicians to do the same. 

However, as it stands currently, an age limit on candidate eligibility for major political offices simply must be enacted. Much like the minimum age of 35 to run for President, 30 to run for the Senate and 25 to run for the House of Representatives prevent candidates deemed too young or inexperienced from being voted into a position beyond their abilities, an age maximum would be in the best interests of the American people.