It’s Time for the WWII Generation to Bow Out of Politics

The following represents the opinion of the student reporter and does not represent the views of Loyola University Maryland, the Greyhound, or Loyola University’s Department of Communication.

Let’s face it, the fact that Joe Biden was alive when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is absurd. Grant it, he was three years old, but the fact remains that it was so long ago that he cannot possibly understand what the younger generations of today relate to. 

I want to get this point across in the beginning: This is not an attack on the Biden Administration and its policies. Rather, the institutions that allowed someone of Biden’s age to get elected to begin with. Biden is not the only person within that age bracket to hold a position of power in our government. 

In fact, there are numerous people from the Silent Generation who have been representing their districts for decades. This list includes Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell. However, no one in Congress is as old as Chuck Grassley, who was born in 1937. Take a second to let that sink in. Grassley was born 85 years ago and has been a senator of Iowa since 1980. He was around the age of most college students when John F. Kennedy was elected. 

I believe that these people cannot possibly understand what their future constituents want, but it seems that their voter base needs to realize this. Take McConnell, for example. McConnell has been in office since 1985. What has he achieved for his state in that time? It doesn’t seem like much. In 2022, Kentucky ranked in the bottom 15 states for education levels, economy, and overall health. 

McConnell has also consistently disagreed with the prospect of raising the federal minimum wage. In a letter sent to McConnell in 2019, Senator Bernie Sanders pleaded that the minimum wage should be increased. Currently, the minimum wage in Kentucky is $7.25–the same as the federal minimum wage. McConnell has not acknowledged this issue, and while many Kentuckians struggle paycheck to paycheck, McConnell is currently worth millions of dollars

The average person who consistently votes in the likes of McConnell and Pelosi votes for the name, not for what they stand for. Politics have been somewhat divisive for the past 15-20 years, but in the past 7-8 years, it has gotten far worse. People like to attribute this to the Trump Presidency, and I largely agree with that statement. But what about the Congress people who rode Trump’s coattails? Remember when Pelosi famously tore up Trump’s State of the Union Address? If she wasn’t a symbol of anti-Trumpism before, she definitely became one following that event. McConnell would also become a symbol of defending the country from the “radical left.” 

It is my belief that these politicians, while the politicians may agree with their political platforms to a degree, have these moments to keep them in the spotlight. If you knew that doing something would boost your popularity, surely you would do it, right? 

And it works! McConnell and Pelosi have not had serious challengers in decades. Ever since their second term elections, they have run virtually unopposed. Dr. Matthew Beverlin of the political science department spoke on this topic. 

“It gets problematic within this bigger lens of the incumbency advantage,” he said. “Their election rates are completely profound. Every incumbent senator that was up last round got reelected.” 

With these incumbent senators, especially the ones that have been in power for decades, it becomes less about enacting reforms for their constituents and more so about retaining power and status. Recently, current Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said that she believes there should be term limits and mandatory mental competency tests. Beverlin disagrees with this statement. 

“I tend to look at the factors that get [the politicians] there in the first place,” Beverlin said. “They skew older, and they are continuously reelected, but I wouldn’t limit voters.”

Beverlin went on to discuss why it is beneficial for Congress and the executive branch to have older people in positions of power. Their decades of experience allow them to be able to navigate whatever situations that they might run into. However, it is my view that the amount of time in political office could also be a detriment. 

Haley is correct in saying that there should be an age limit, but her suggestion of 75 seems too old to me. If the average American is supposed to retire at age 65, shouldn’t politicians be required to do so as well? In 2017, a pharmacist made headlines for saying that she has filled out Alzheimer’s prescriptions for members of Congress. The idea that there are elected officials who require medication to help them remember what they had for breakfast is ludicrous.

The issue that arises with enacting age limits is the idea of ageism. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed by Congress in 1967, and it prohibits any age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. What is interesting about ADEA is that it does not apply to elected officials, independent contractors, or military personnel. 

While ADEA doesn’t apply to elected officials, a Supreme Court ruling in 1995, U.S. Term Limits Inc. v. Thornton, stated that states cannot impose qualifications for prospective members of Congress stricter than those specified in the Constitution. This ruling stems from a 1994 proposed law by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, which attempted to enact two six-year term limits for senators and six two-year terms for representatives. 

As someone who voted for Biden in the 2020 election, I want to point out that at 80 years old, you can tell that he is starting to slow down. There is a stark difference between him jogging on stage after winning the election and this video of him walking aimlessly toward a person’s desk in September of this past year. I won’t attribute this to cognitive decline like many others, but it is not unreasonable to assume that his age is catching up with him. President Biden seems likely to announce his 2024 presidential bid in the coming weeks. If he were to win, at the end of his second term, he would be 86 years old. He is already the oldest president in history. Former President Trump, also seeking a 2024 presidential nomination, would be 82 at the end of his second term. 

A new wave of younger people needs to gain congressional and executive power. This has been slowly happening, with millennials and Gen X’ers gaining spots in Congress. Furthermore, the 2022 midterms ushered in Congress’s first Gen Z representative: Maxwell Frost of Florida. Slowly, the age brackets of the majority of Americans are beginning to be represented on a Congressional level. But, if we do not implement an age limit or term limit soon, we will be left waiting for the inevitable deaths of longstanding politicians instead of having real change.