Problems with American gerontocracy

The health of geriatric Congress
members make them unfit to carry
out their congressional duties.

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, Sen. Mitch Mc-
Connell was in the middle of a press con-
ference in his home state of Kentucky when

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he abruptly froze. The 81-year-old Senate
minority leader had just been asked about
his plans to run for reelection in 2026 when
he paused for roughly 30 seconds. This in-
cident marked the second time that McCo-
nnell had experienced momentary mental
lapses in front of the press. McConnell’s
team claims that these episodes are the re-
sult of lightheadedness stemming from the
Senator’s recovery from a severe concus-
sion in March. Further, a letter from the At-
tending Physician of the United States Con-
gress Dr. Brian P. Monahan states that upon
evaluation, conditions such as strokes, a sei-
zure disorder or Parkinson’s have been ruled
out. However, these reassurances have done
little to address the most significant question
from these incidents: whether or not Mitch
McConnell is too old to serve in the Senate.
McConnell is not the only member of the
Senate whose age has recently led to scru-
tiny. Earlier this year, 90-year-old Sen. Di-
anne Feinstein of California faced calls for
her resignation after a bout of shingles hos-
pitalized her for months. Feinstein’s absence
was acutely felt within the Senate Judicial
Committee, where she granted Democrats a
single-person majority. Without her present,
dozens of judicial nominations went uncon-
firmed as the committee was deadlocked
between Democrats and Republicans. Fein-
stein ultimately announced her retirement at
the end of her Senate term but declined to
resign her position.
Currently, half of all members of the
Senate are 65 or older, while only 17% of
Americans are 65 or older. The 118th Sen-
ate is the oldest in history. We are, by any
metric, a gerontocracy, and this has wor-
rying implications for the policy decisions
they are making. The greatest issues facing
the United States today are ones that are
going to have an impact on our nation for
decades, if not centuries. The climate crisis,
artificial intelligence and the monopolistic
tendencies of the technology sector are all
problems that are only going to get worse
over time. These are problems for the fu-
ture — a future many of these politicians
are not going to be alive for. How are they
supposed to feel the weight and the urgency
of these issues if they will not have to deal
with the consequences of them? How are
you supposed to convince an 80-year-old to
care about whether or not the planet will be
burning in 30 years or about the dangers AI
will pose upon the livelihoods of people in
2045? They have no personal stake in the
decisions they are making and the result is
a policy of can-kicking and minimizing ex-
tremely serious and, in some cases, world-
threatening issues.
The most obvious solution to this prob-
lem is term limits. If we restrict the amount
of time any single individual can spend in
Congress, then we reduce the chances of our
government being run almost entirely by
people over 70. Term limits would create a
system that ensures a constant introduction
of newer, younger voices into Congress and
allow the legislature to reflect the values and
address the problems of the people who will
be inheriting this country.

Post Author: Ace Hensley