TOO OLD TO UNDERSTAND?
At what point does the age of a politician become an issue?
Many of our nation’s leaders are in their seventies or older. The median age of the average American is thirty five. That means that many people making laws and decisions for this country are twice as old as the average citizen.
This doesn’t mean that older politicians make bad decisions but it does mean that they are out of range when it comes to keeping in touch with the concerns of the average American.
Should there be a mandatory retirement age for politicians? If most of us are urged to retire in our seventies, then why not politicians? The President can only serve two terms. Why not Congress?
People in their thirties or forties have different needs than people in their seventies. They view the world from a wider perspective. Their responsibilities are more diverse.
Can someone in their seventies relate to the concerns of younger Americans? Do they understand the culture? Are they aware of the shifting opinions and the outlook of the average person?
It's difficult to gauge. Obviously not all older politicians are out of the mainstream. Many have remained engaged with the issues of a younger demographic. They rely on that engagement to secure their reelection efforts.
At some point along the timeline age does become an issue. The urgency to deal with the nation’s problems is not as apparent in the older politician as it is for the younger generation of lawmakers. Priorities differ. The fact that politicians seem to want to hold onto their positions the older they get is also a concern. They become used to the perks and the power. We had one legislator, Strom Thurmond, who commuted to Congress from his hospital room in a wheelchair. He was one hundred years old. Clearly Thurmond was in no condition to comprehend the concerns of a much younger national interest.
No matter the intellect of the politician, there comes a time when the engagement with a younger national constituency becomes an issue. Is it sensible for citizens to leave decisions and law making to people twice as old as they are or should a more youthful perspective be encouraged? Power is accumulated with age. An older generation has always governed a younger demographic. Perhaps it's time to change that dynamic.