Our government is in desperate need of younger, newer voices

Illustration by Michele Hicks

Ishaan Nandwani, Opinions Editor

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa tweeted his frustration about having to miss a second consecutive family reunion to fight against a bill last month.

Users on Twitter, an unforgiving social media platform when it comes to statements of privilege and elitism, fired back with a message for Grassley to retire.

At 88 years old, Grassley is the second oldest U.S. senator, behind only Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is 89 years old. Grassley is seeking re-election this November; should he win his race, he would be a staggering 95 years old at the end of the term.

Older politicians are common in Washington, D.C. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is 82, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is 80 and President Joe Biden is 79. These leaders have had political careers spanning decades, but they have shown no sign of stepping down. However, for the sake of this country, they must.

Throughout history, age has been associated with wisdom, experience and emotional maturity. We look up to older members of our community for advice and strength, and the age of our leaders has often reflected this sentiment.

While such experience is valuable to leadership, age can also be confining. When one is in power for too long, they run the risk of being stuck in their ways, unable to see things from a new perspective. Younger, newer voices are not heard — and they need to be.

The way our government is structured allows for politicians to stay in power for life. The presidency is one of the few offices with a term limit. Supreme Court justices have life tenure, and members of Congress can run as many times as they desire.

In order to allow our nation’s brightest young minds to shine, we must implement term limits for these offices. This is especially necessary for Supreme Court justices, who are not elected by the people yet have an extraordinary amount of power, as we’ve seen this past year. Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna of California drafted a bill to limit justices’ terms to 18 years, which is a good start.

Let’s take a look at Biden. Although he has earned himself a shred of good will among democrats for his debt relief plan, Biden’s approval ratings have been abysmal for the majority of his presidency. His unpopularity may or may not have anything to do with his age, but the sentiment among many Americans is clear: we do not want to re-elect a president who will be 86 at the end of his second term.

In addition to desiring these newer voices, many are concerned about Biden’s mental acuity and capacity to serve, a belief that has been propagated by right-wing media. Our society is quick to criticize a simple stutter or err of speech, and Biden has frequently been targeted for his imperfect diction. Other politicians such as Feinstein have been subject to similar attacks.

The standards for politicians to be perfect orators have long faded since the era of Barack Obama’s administration. My personal reservations with older politicians aren’t necessarily linked to these concerns as much as wanting younger voices in the conversation, as I find it unfair to speculate on one’s mental status without having all the information.

We should instead focus on how well these politicians get the job done, and listen to those within the government who work with these elected officials. If they have concerns about the leaders’ age affecting their ability to serve, we should certainly pay attention to them.

In other words, cognitive functioning isn’t the most important issue to consider related to how old these politicians are, but it’s not something to be dismissed either.

My advice to the politicians who have spent their entire adult life in office and are pushing 90 is similar to those on Twitter: retire. You’ll never have to miss a family reunion again.

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