Evaluating age limits for elected officials

Evaluating age limits for elected officials

On Feb. 2, 2023, former President Bill Clinton joined President Joe Biden at the White House to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Even though Clinton hasn’t been in office for three decades, he is still three years younger than Biden. At 80 years old, President Biden is the first octogenarian — a person who is between 80 and 89 years old — to occupy the Oval Office. His potential opponent in the 2024 presidential election, former President Donald Trump, is not far behind at 77. This trend of older politicians is present across the branches of the U.S. government. Currently, Congress boasts some of the oldest members in the past two decades, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at 73, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at 81 and Sen. Chuck Grassley at a staggering 90 years old. In a massive bipartisan trend, the United States government is aging at the expense of the people and their interests.

FBI special agents have a mandatory retirement age of 57, yet the most stressful and important job in the nation has no upper age limit. While age itself shouldn’t be a disqualifying factor, we must ask if our leaders are capable of fulfilling their roles effectively. The Constitution sets a minimum age requirement for presidents, senators and representatives, but it lacks a maximum age limit. When the Constitution was first drafted, the average lifespan was 57. Now, it’s 77. This substantial increase in life expectancy comes with age-related cognitive diseases. For instance, McConnell was recently asked about running for reelection in 2026 during an event in Covington, Kentucky,  acknowledging the question but off shortly after and stopped speaking. Despite cognitive incidents like these in recent months, McConnel continues to hold office.

Additionally, in light of the aging trend in American politics, there is an imperative for younger politicians to advocate for policies that directly address the concerns of younger citizens. As the average age of Congress members rises, the significant gap in representation across generations will grow. Younger leaders can help emphasize the importance of a government that reflects the entire spectrum of age groups. By championing policies that directly address the concerns of younger Americans — such as student loan debt, access to affordable healthcare and job opportunities in emerging industries — these politicians can bridge the generational gap in Congress. However, calls for voluntary secession, as demonstrated by Sen. Mitt Romney’s decision to step aside at 76 and his call for a younger generation of new leaders may not be enough; relying solely on individual decisions does not address the broader issue.

Yet, involuntary secession would be just as difficult. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 68% of Americans support age ceilings for Congressional candidates and 66% support age ceilings for presidential candidates. However, imposing maximum age limits on elected officials would require amending the Constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House, followed by ratification by three-quarters of states. In an era where the average senator is 64 and the average house representative is 58, it seems unlikely that such an amendment would pass. If an age limit was set at the average retirement age of 61, more than 70% of Congress would be ineligible.

It seems, however, that many voters aren’t too concerned with age. McConnell has won the last seven senatorial elections for his seat; Sen. Dianne Feinstein — who died in office in 2023 at 90 years old — won the last six since a special election in 1992. In reality, the real challenge doesn’t lie with age, but in the prevalence of career politicians. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators with diverse professional backgrounds who would bring their real-world expertise to the government. But under the status quo, career politicians do not truly represent everyday Americans. Their entire job is dependent on reelection, and the risk of losing their jobs leads them to champion short-term goals to appease voters instead of presenting long-term visions. An extremely apparent example of this is the national debt, which is now at a profoundly high $34 trillion. This issue has long been ignored by Republicans and Democrats; instead of developing policies to end the debt crisis, they raise the debt ceiling even higher or spend weeks bickering over small budget cuts under the threat of a government shutdown. Instead of voting for these career politicians, voters should heed candidates who have nothing to lose by running for office — those with a private life who may better understand the true problems Americans face.

Instead of being selfish, politicians need to work for the general public. They need to have the generosity to step aside and think of others. A massive three-generation divide between current politicians and young voters calls for a more diverse governing class that addresses the concerns of a multigenerational society. As the nation’s second-youngest president John F. Kennedy once said, it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.

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About the Contributors
William He (he/him), Junior Web Editor, Photo Editor
Junior William He embarks on his journey of the 2023-2024 school year as the Junior Web Editor and Photo Editor of Nordic News. In his third year on staff, Will aims to continue Nordic’s mission of serving the Inglemoor community by expanding the newspaper’s physical and digital presence by creating relevant, informative, and entertaining content. Outside of Nordic, Will is a full IB student and participates in DECA. 
Daniel Su (he/him), News Editor, Senior PR Manager
Junior Daniel Su is hyped for his second year on Nordic as news editor and Senior PR Manager. This year, he is looking to improve his writing and reporting skills while making sure every student at IHS is represented in Nordic’s stories. Outside of Nordic, Daniel runs XC and plays soccer for the school. He is also involved in a lot of interesting clubs, such as DECA, MUN, and Chess club. He hopes you find our issues interesting and helpful. Happy reading Viks!

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