Image from ABC News. Top: Joe Biden falling.
After recent videos of politician Mitch McConnell freezing up multiple times surfaced on the internet, along with Biden running for a second term at age 83 with his opponent Trump being 78, many are beginning to question the age diversity within politics, and if these politicians have become too old to effectively represent us.
While age has always been a political factor, there is simply not enough diversity within the political system. The youngest member who is currently serving in Congress is 34 years old, while other members have been serving longer than that. In fact, the average age in Congress in 2023 is 58. While it is a common saying that elders have more wisdom and knowledge, they only have that wisdom for the world they lived in, not the one they currently live in. Elders may understand the concepts of war, but they aren’t able to understand how email works.
A crucial issue that comes with the age of these politicians is that they are unable to speak for the younger generation’s concerns. Older politicians won’t be around for the effects of climate change, and it seems like they just don’t care, despite knowing how seriously it will affect our generation.
Furthermore, many older politicians who make decisions about the economy have yet to experience the current economy directly. An example of this is the housing market, and how it is almost impossible to purchase a house today. The average Californian house in 1970 was $24,300. Today, that average has risen to $800,000.
Another problem is that when someone is elected, their opinion typically stays the same throughout their entire term, and with cases like the Supreme Court, the term is lifelong. In circumstances such as these, term limits would be beneficial. It would help cycle in new perspectives and ideologies.
However, a large contributor to the lack of age diversity is that typically, younger generations don’t vote as consistently as older generations do. According to Circle at Tufts, the national youth voter turnout in 2022 was only 23%. Older generations vote much more reliably, and they usually vote for more senior politicians as well, as they are more hesitant about change. This starts with the trend of older generations voting more conservative and younger ones voting left. This has to do with the idea that younger people crave change more than older ones. An example of this is Bernie Sanders. Although he is extremely old, he had a lot of support from younger voters when he ran in the 2020 presidential election because he wanted to instill change. The reason why we still see older and out-of-touch politicians is that young people simply don’t vote as much, which causes an overwhelming amount of votes from older generations. If you complain about politicians being too old but you don’t vote, you are a part of the problem!
The idea of respecting elders and their morals is another vital aspect to consider. The concept has always been drilled into our heads, but while respecting elders is essential, that should not prevent us from respectfully disagreeing. Also, some opinions simply do not deserve respect and should be held accountable. For instance, older generations tend to have outdated opinions that include harmful stereotypes and assumptions. This includes racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic views.
While elders can have more experience and wisdom, most of their experiences simply do not apply in the current world. This leads to a disconnection from the modern world. While every generation shares some similar struggles, overall the situation today is so different from the past that they cannot be comparable. Finding a balance between older and younger politicians can bring fresh perspectives and more experience. Elderly people can still contribute to society, but rather in veteran positions, such as teaching and sharing knowledge with people, instead of directly making decisions that can affect the country.