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Old and out of touch politicians are overlords of U.S. government

Old and out of touch politicians are overlords of U.S. government

Old and out of touch politicians are overlords of U.S. government
February 11
16:00 2021

The current U.S. gerontocracy fails to be a government comprised of representatives who more accurately reflect the nation’s population demographics and fails to address the urgent issue of climate change on a warming planet. Simply put, the U.S. is a gerontocracy, which is a type of government ruled by a lot of older people.

Freshly elected Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) made history recently during the Georgia runoff as he represents generational change being the first millennial elected to the U.S. Senate. 

Hopefully, Ossoff injects energy into a U.S. Senate where the average age is 63 and the U.S. House of Representatives is 57. The averages of both chambers that form the bicameral legislature are more than double the age requirements established in the Constitution — 30 for senators and 25 for representatives.

The age gap between demographics in the U.S. and the lawmakers in Congress is inherently caused by the nature of American political campaigns where money and name recognition are favored. Both of these factors are often acquired over a long lifetime, meaning that most candidates are older when they decided to run for higher office.

This was exemplified during the 2020 Democratic primary when media coverage raised concerns regarding the ages of the multiple high-profile septuagenarian candidates of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg. Biden’s frequent gaffes during debates and Sanders’ heart attack were at the center of the presidential age debate. Regardless, Sanders bounced back and vigorously campaigned as a brief front-runner and Biden became the oldest president elected in history.

Meanwhile, the average temperature of the planet rises alongside the age of lawmakers.

Inspiring child activists from the Sunrise Movement met with Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to advocate for her to support the Green New Deal. On video, Feinstein’s reply was a callous mock, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that.”

Feinstein’s harsh disinterest for legalization required to combat the impending ecological disaster of climate change shows how out of touch politicians are with this nation’s younger generations.

Public pressure continued to build for Feinstein after a The New Yorker article reported that Feinstein’s short-term memory has regressed heavily causing her to forget entire congressional briefings. She denied the claims outright. Calls begging Feinstein to retire swelled online, resulting in her resignation as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary panel. Feinstein’s story captures the fragile conversations surrounding the age of politicians, but more importantly, her outdated political beliefs had always created the bulk of the conflict.

Senators Sanders, Warren and Ed Markey (D-MA) attract supporters that on average demonstrate how older politicians can run on platforms that resonate with young voters. Sanders calls for canceling out all student debt, his signature Medicare-for-all and the aforementioned Green New Deal. Warren extended the base to include young college-educated white women. Markey allied himself with the Sunrise Movement to produce the legendary “deal maker” political advertisement to win a primary challenge against the much younger and renowned Joe Kennedy III.

A solution that aims to alleviate the gerontocracy that dominates U.S. politics is term limits. The idea behind the legislation is it would prevent lawmakers from becoming career politicians. Promisingly, there is strong bipartisan support for term limits but it would be against the self-interests of incumbent politicians who do not want to hand over their reigns on power.

Even Sanders, Warren and Markey oppose term limits arguing that they are undemocratic and would actually increase the power of lobbyists in Washington D.C. Besides, it would be against the interest of the younger generation to pass a law that would remove longstanding progressives who have always advocated for them out of office.

Instead, the younger generation can learn what to do next from the words of Senator Feinstein.

During the meeting with Sunrise Movement, a Sunrise Movement member pleaded to Feinstein “Any plan that doesn’t take bold, transformative action is not going to be what we need.”

Feinstein retorted “Well, you know better than I do. So, I think one day you should run for senate.”

For the survival of humanity, young leaders must continue to loudly stand up to the irresponsibility of gerontocratic politicians who have abandoned our future. Take Feinstein’s advice and run against entrenched incumbents obstructing the world’s health.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

About Author

Brett Davis

Brett Davis

Columnist on The North Texas Daily's opinion section since 2020. His stories focus on politics and point out hypocrisy. He is a current undergraduate student at UNT majoring in political science and history. Also, he is the vice president of UNT College Democrats and a student relations coordinator for SGA. In 2019, Davis graduated from Central Texas College with an A.A. in interdisciplinary studies.

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