The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Get in & stay in- what is wrong with American government today

With 2024 being a major election year in the U.S., voters and politicians are beginning to speak up about age limits within elected government positions. 

With the average age of many politicians in or near the typical retirement age, we believe the representation of younger generations is severely lacking when it comes to making decisions regarding the general public. 

Ending his two-decade-long political career, Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney announced he will not be running for reelection. Romney’s announcement sparked major conversations about revisiting age limits and term limits within the American government.

Romney expressed disinterest in the front runners for the presidential election, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, saying the country would be better served if the baby boomers stepped aside. 

“It’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in,” said Romney, according to The Week

We think it’s more than time for our geriatric representatives to take a leaf from Romney’s book and step down. We believe the people who are shaping the world should also be the ones living in it. We do not believe the politicians pushing 70 and 80 years old are representative of that demographic.

After serving as Utah Republican Senator, a term as Massachusetts governor and the 2012 Republican GOP nominee, Romney’s decision to walk away from the political landscape starkly contrasts what we see as typical in American government– to get in and stay in. 

Historically, American senators have stayed in office as long as 51 consecutive years– Iowa’s Sen. Chuck Grassley (42 years in office) and Sen. Mitch McConnel (38 years in office) landing in the top 15 longest-serving senators ever. 

There is a clear generational gap between the majority of voters and a large portion of leaders with governmental power. We feel this divide means the people in our American governing body do not represent the same values as voters, with many even calling the U.S. a gerontocracy. Eric Sbrollini, a law student at Boston University, claimed the government is “America’s most privileged nursing home” in an article with The Wall Street Journal, and we agree with him.

“The average age (in) the U.S. Senate is 65.3 years old, while the average age in the House is 57.9,” reported Spectrum News NY1. However, the average age for Americans to retire was 62 for women and 65 for men in 2021, according to Forbes.

As the debate on elected officials’ age limits continues, many seek to enact regulations regarding politicians’ ability to serve their citizens. 

According to CNN, “Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is 51, wants to impose a ‘mental competency’ test for older candidates over 75.” 

The mental competency of older candidates has repeatedly been called into question in recent headlines about California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein as well as Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Both had recent public episodes casting media speculation about their respective mental capacity at their old ages. 

In July, Feinstein, age 90, launched into a speech instead of voicing an “aye” or “nay” in typical fashion. 

“​​About 15 seconds into Feinstein’s speech, Committee chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., then told Feinstein: ‘Just say aye,” according to NBC News.

Similarly, earlier in the year, McConnell who is 81 was hospitalized for a concussion after suffering a fall at a hotel during a private dinner in D.C. McConnell later suffered a neurological episode resembling a mini-stroke while speaking to reporters in late July when “he stood at a lectern for about 30 seconds without speaking after being asked a question.”  Later the State Senator was removed by staff from the stage. However, it was later reported by a doctor that “brain scans conducted on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell found no evidence he has a seizure disorder or experienced a stroke in connection with the most recent of two episodes of freezing up as he spoke in public.” 

The ordeals make us seriously question the mental competency of older politicians like Feinstein and McConnell. Are politicians who are on their last legs really who we want making monumental decisions for the entire country? We don’t think so.

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