People in most professions retire at around 63. But not politicians. Remember we just elected the oldest president in history. And currently, there are 18 members of the Senate who are age 70 and older, with some, such as Dianne Feinstein, Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, well into their 80s.
In fact, for the past several decades, ages in the hallowed halls of Congress have been on the rise. In 1981, the average age of a Representative was 49 and a Senator, 53. However, by 2017, those numbers had jumped to 57 and 61, respectively. (Interesting footnote: Democrats happen to be older than their Republican counterparts.)
In a 2016 article in Bloomberg, experts partially attributed this “graying” of Congress to how Americans routinely favor the incumbent in elections. By re-electing the sitting Senator or Representative 95 percent of time, our lawmakers are able to celebrate birthday after birthday in office… and our governing body, as a whole, grows older and older, and hopefully wiser and wiser.
Or maybe the reason for Congress’ advancing age is as simple as this: We believe our positions of leadership belong in the hands of those with experience. In other words, we trust the veterans more than the rookies to make the rules we live by.
Plato was quoted as saying, “It is for the elder man to rule and for the younger to submit.” While America certainly isn’t the gerontocracy that ancient Greece was, politicians in the U.S. Congress are, on average, two decades older than the citizens they represent. Wisdom and experience aside, is that generational divide between lawmakers and law followers effective or ineffective for our country?
Share your thoughts on an aging Congress.