Written by Annika Lilja:
I want you to visualize a stereotypical senator. Now, I want you to visualize your grandparents or anyone with a similar role in your life. Most grandparents in our generation will be in their 60-80s. Can you imagine your grandparent being a senator, someone who influences our government everyday, votes on bills, and represents your state? How well do your grandparents understand technology? How well do they understand your life and that of your parents? Although my grandparents are intellectual people, who understand politics through years of experience, I can’t imagine them doing that job. It can be difficult to even get them to text properly. It isn’t from a lack of intelligence, but rather an extreme generational difference.
The average age for senators in the US is 64.3 years, the oldest yet to date. The average age of a citizen in America is 38.5 years old. There is an argument to be made that senators exist to represent their state and to vote on behalf of those they represent. Can a 64 year old clearly represent their state if the average age of a citizen is 38.5?
If you take that to the most extreme case, you can ask if an 88 year old can accurately represent the average citizen? The oldest sitting senator is Dianne Feinstein, who is 88 and has represented California since 1992. She began serving 15 years before the first iPhone was released.
The population demographic of the United States is changing. People are living much longer
then they were when the constitution was written. Do you feel we need to change with the population demographic? Or do you believe having senators with more experience is better?
There is a strong argument to be made that senators with more experience are more capable since they simply have years of experience making decisions and leading. Then there is simply the politics behind it: Incumbents offer perks to the political parties and keep a state either blue or red.
How do we weigh decisions like setting a maximum age for being in office? Does setting a maximum age make us ageist? Is having a maximum age any different than having a minimum age of 30 for the senate? In theory, the idea of free elections should mean that the people get to vote for whomever they want to represent them. But this doesn’t apply if they are under 30 or if they haven’t been a citizen for nine years. Is adding one more limitation a crime, or is it a way to preserve what the senate was designed to do?
Another idea to bring to the table is setting limits to how many terms a senator can serve. This eliminates any ageism issues while also making sure that new voices and change are being brought to the government.
Think about all that has happened in the gap of your grandparents being born and you being born. People have been in space, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, giving people of color the right to vote, DNA’s double helix was discovered, the Korean War, and so much more. Those things separate the people running the government and the average citizen.
We have to ask ourselves what is more important to us: having someone in office who watched all of it happen, and has that experience, or having a younger senator who is a new voice of the future to come?
Soon enough the generation currently running the country will have to make way for newer generations, and in a decade or two they will need to make way for us, Generation Z. Soon enough, the decisions will be ours to make and it will be up to us to keep the country afloat, to improve it for future generations to come.
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Roberts, Roxanne. "This Senate is the oldest in American history. Should we do anything about it?" Washingtonpost.com, 4 June 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/06/02/senate-age-term-limits/. Accessed 12 July 2021.
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