You know it’s bad when Mitt Romney is the voice of reason in American politics.
At the age of 76, the longtime U.S. Senator has decided not to run for reelection in 2024 due to his age, putting him in sharp contrast with his peers from both sides of the aisle. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has decided she will run for reelection in 2024, despite the fact that she will be 86 at the end of that term.
However, she is not the most concerning representative in Congress. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Republican Minority Leader, has now suffered from two instances where he froze up and did not speak during interviews. Who knows how many he has had in private, yet he is somehow still deemed healthy and competent enough to run this nation. This issue is prevalent in both parties, as Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was seen being instructed on how to vote by one of her assistants. That’s right, someone had to tell a senator how to vote because she is too senile to vote for herself. That is not what a democracy should look like.
I don’t mean to discredit the work these politicians have done over their careers. Pelosi, McConnell and Feinstein have shown incredible devotion to public service and representing their constituents. However, the average time spent in the House is 8.9 years or 4.5 House terms, and the average term in the Senate is 11 years or 1.8 terms, and many politicians have vastly outserved these averages. It’s clear that it’s time for them, and those in similar positions, to allow new politicians to serve their country in an effective manner.
In the continuing divisiveness of American politics, the only thing that most Americans can seem to agree on is that we need term limits for our congressmen. In fact, a study found that five out of six Americans agree that there should be a constitutional amendment dictating term limits for congressional representatives. This issue isn’t divided on party lines either, the same study showed that 86% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats and 84% of independents supported the hypothetical amendment.
The average age of Americans is 38.9 years old, and yet the average age of those representing us in the House is 57.9, while in the Senate, it’s 63.6. Usually, people advocate for older politicians because they have more experience and wisdom, but this is an outdated idea in a continuously evolving world.
In the 1976-1977 school year, ten years after McConnell went to college and 20 years after Pelosi, the average cost of tuition was $2,607, adjusted for inflation. In the 2020-2021 school year, it was $10,560—almost a 500% increase. When you put this into the context that 17.4% of Americans hold student loan debt, in part due to the exorbitant price raise in tuition, you can see a clear disconnect between their generation and ours. These older politicians have no idea how expensive college tuition is and how difficult it is for many to pay these often predatory loans off.
Additionally, college degrees were far more valuable in the job market during the 20th century, when most of these older politicians were actively searching for jobs. Without the ability to relate to the difficulties surrounding the acquisition of a college degree, there will never be substantial efforts to tangibly help Americans who are struggling to pay off their debts. A younger generation of politicians would be far more likely to understand and sympathize with the issues we college students will face in the near future.
It’s also clear that these politicians don’t have the experience or knowledge to properly handle situations and regulations regarding our nation’s technology sector. One of the most glaring examples of this was during the congressional hearing on TikTok, where 51-year-old U.S Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) asked if TikTok had access to the home’s Wi-Fi network.
If these politicians don’t even understand how the devices and applications we Americans use daily work, how can we expect them to protect us from more complex issues like data mining and privacy concerns, which are important to us as technology consumers? Since we can’t expect the older generations to protect us, it’s time for a new generation of politicians who understand the technology we use and have new ideas on how to protect us.
Every American politician should use Romney as an example and reexamine whether or not their continued political leadership is helping their country or hurting it. He is one of the few in Congress who understands that he has had his time serving his country and that he is no longer equipped to adequately support his constituents as is needed currently. It’s time for us as a new politically active generation to demand not just better from our politicians but new ones who understand what struggles we Americans face every day and can actually help us.