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Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Molly Gallagher April 18, 2024

On Wednesday, April 17, the boys’ varsity tennis team dominated their match against Archie Williams in the semi-finals of the Marin County...

Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Emma Rosenberg and Penelope Trott April 18, 2024

On April 18, the girls’ varsity lacrosse team battled against the Branson Bulls in a blowout senior day matchup. Prior to the start of...

 embracing his coach senior Auden Braden celebrates his final MCAL regular season game
Boys’ volleyball dominates Marin Catholic on Senior Night
Richard Byrne April 18, 2024

On April 17th, the boys’ varsity volleyball team faced off against Marin Catholic (MC) in a Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) game. The...

A case for age limits in American politics

Age is not just a number

Behind Mitch McConnell’s abrupt pauses, Joe Biden’s brittle stride, Dianne Feinstein’s tragic passing, Chuck Grassley’s hospitalization and Donald Trump’s all too common advanced age exists a worrying trend in the American government. While the U.S. population’s 2023 median age was 39 years, the average age of the sitting 118th U.S. Congress placed the third oldest ever at 58 years. The previous Congress was the all-time oldest at 59 years. Currently, the U.S. Senate’s average age exceeds 64 years and over one-third of House Representatives are more than 65 years old.

As elected officials increasingly qualify for government benefits in more ways than one, they encounter unavoidable health issues, struggle to communicate effectively, offer less appeal in elections and often fail to represent the American people. The original U.S. Constitution established minimum age limits to exclude younger, potentially inexperienced and untested politicians from office; now, as Americans live significantly longer, a maximum age limit of 70 years must be imposed to exclude older, likely declining and disconnected politicians from office.

In the case of Dianne Feinstein, who pioneered the landmark 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban at age 61, her final year in office included a three-month-long absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee as her vote was urgently required to help fill vacant court positions. Ultimately, it was still-serving Senator Feinstein’s passing at age 90 that unnecessarily contributed to her legacy. Elected officials should not depart Washington having died of old age.

Whether hospitalized with age-related medical conditions that physically prevent politicians from governing or paralyzed before reporters in the halls of the Capitol, the health issues that inevitably follow the seniority of U.S. elected officials have greater implications when leading a nation of unparalleled strength and global responsibility. It is disappointing to see the predictable consequences of mental (and physical) decline reflected in House Representatives repeatedly misspeaking the social media platform “TikTok” with “Tic Tac” (amongst larger struggles to understand technology) and presidential candidates failing to communicate modern issues in speech. Such modern issues — from the artificial intelligence revolution to pandemics, shifting geopolitics and socioeconomic inequalities — might also not be best addressed by the leaders who have historically neglected and failed to confront these and similar matters.

With the impacts of long-term issues worsening, particularly climate change, politicians must operate to support young and future generations. If elected officials were younger themselves, they would have vested interests in securing a better long-term future for the U.S. Additionally, such politicians would be far less likely to encounter declines in physical well-being, communication skills, executive functions, open-mindedness, and mental competency that naturally occur and accelerate in humans over the age of 70.

Consequently and unsurprisingly, a 2023 survey from the Pew Research Center found that 79 percent of Americans support maximum age limits for elected officials. A separate CBS News poll found that 40 percent of Americans support such limits at age 70, 26 percent prefer 60, and 18 percent prefer 80 (only two percent prefer 90). Nevertheless, American politics has long followed what Oscar Wilde once famously said, “With age comes wisdom.” Voters often default towards older politicians who seem to possess extensive experience and knowledge, which can contribute to more informed decision-making and governance. Voters also frequently favor older politicians who seem to offer stability and certainty. That being said, it is also worthwhile to consider the second part of Wilde’s saying: “Sometimes age comes alone.”

Exceptions to this might include Bernie Sanders’ untraditional policies and the legislative effectiveness of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This, however, does not alter the need for a younger demographic transition in Washington. From the Oval Office to the House Floor, the inclusion of relatively younger elected officials will diversify thought, renew energy towards problem-solving and deal-making, and update politician experience to the 21st century. Equipping the world’s leading democracy with more able minds and voices, capable of both understanding ongoing developments that challenge Washington conventions and addressing subsequent courses of action, is overdue.

It is worth considering that the overwhelming bipartisan consensus (which notably extends across all ages) in favor of maximum age limits might stem from voter disillusionment. Although popularly demanded, younger elected officials often do not hold office because they are not motivated to run or supported by necessary political forces. This will not change without, firstly, maximum age limits disrupting the existing status quo and, secondly, voters supporting younger candidates. As the 2024 Presidential Election moves towards a four-year repeat of 2020, with Donald Trump, 77, and Joe Biden, 81, the apparent lack of voter interest speaks to the need for such a shift. America’s democratic health relies on Americans involving themselves in politics. While the age reduction and limiting of U.S. elected officials will contribute to a more representative, communicative and responsive government, it might also help reverse voter apathy, inspire future leaders and revitalize American democracy.

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