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Marquette Wire

Install term limits for Congress

Photo by Photo via Flickr
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze on camera during appearances in July and August.

In the United States, the median age of a senator is 64.3 years old, while the median age of all Americans is just bordering on 40 years old. This displays a clear dissonance between the age, and therefore ideals and vision for the future, of the average American and politicians. The age of many American politicians poses significant challenges for effective governance.

This is the oldest Congress ever. But it wasn’t always this way, a data project from Insider called Red, White and Gray found that this trend started around 30 years ago. In the 1990s a major shift was seen where congresspeople have only gotten exponentially older. Now, nearly half of Congress is made up of baby boomers.

While it is typical that politicians tend to be older on average than their constituents, this degree of age difference is a deviation from the norm. This Congress is the most diverse in history in all forms apart from age. The American population deserves to have a congress that can accurately represent them on all fronts and is equipped to deal with the changing times.

One of the major concerns about aging politicians is their health and how it affects their ability to serve. While this has been a concern for a while it was brought to light somewhat recently when Senate minority leader, Mitch McConell, appeared to freeze while speaking to reporters. The first instance was in July at a news conference on Capitol Hill, McConnell froze 19 seconds before being escorted away. Later on in August, a similar situation occurred in Covington, Kentucky McConnell froze and was unresponsive to any questions asked by reporters or his staff.

Cognitive decline isn’t the only issue that has been posed by aging politicians. A lack of basic understanding of the changing world, particularly technological innovations, has been demonstrated by these politicians. In April a hearing was held discussing the app TikTok. Congresspeople, some referring to the app as “TicTac,” asked a series of questions which made them seem to have no real understanding of how the internet works. 

Politicians asked whether the app tracks pupil dilation in reference to filters knowing where eyes are, how they know the age of users insinuating that biometric data was used and if the app will connect to home Wi-Fi. To those versed in social media, these questions seemed odd. For instance, with most social media sites users selfreport their age which would be obvious to the average user. Similarly with the question if TikTok can access home Wi-Fi people were quick to point out that most apps require network access making it not at all a relevant question in terms of national security. 

In order to mitigate this issue of older politicians dominating Congress, term limits should be instated. Currently, there are no term limits in Congress, instead they are restricted to the executive branch and some agencies. Term limits would encourage regular turnover and prevent the entrenchment of older politicians. A survey from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy found that 83% of registered voters favored some kind of constitutional amendment that would install term limits with relatively equal support from both parties.

It’s important that leaders not only somewhat represent the general public but also that they are fit to realize their duties as well as willing and able to understand the changing world.

This story was written by Kirsten Lyons. She can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Kirsten Lyons
Kirsten Lyons, Assistant Opinions Editor
Kirsten Lyons is a sophomore from St. Paul, Minnesota studying journalism and peace studies and is the Assistant Opinions Editor at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire she enjoys knitting, reading and trying out new recipes. She is excited to grow as a journalist at the Wire and help others do the same.

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