In the upcoming midterm elections on Nov. 8, many issues are proving to be divisive among voters. Topics of abortion, immigration and gun control seem to be separating people further apart. Although, the electorate may be disregarding a seemingly pressing issue as well: the high average age and lack of term limits in our congress.
Here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, campus is full of young adults hoping to impact the world. If we are able to avoid catastrophic events, many of those among us can expect to live another 60 to 70 years in this country that we call home. In recognizing this, we must see ourselves and the things we hold dear as the future of the nation.
Unfortunately, with the U.S. Senate among the top 10 oldest chambers of government in the world, with an average age over 64 and the U.S. House in the top 20 with an average age over 58, our collective future is ignored by elderly policymakers from both parties.
With the median age of 38 in the U.S., our campus population skews toward a younger representation with its makeup of mostly young adults. This should be viewed as a positive trait of a balanced society, albeit one that is not thoroughly represented in congress.
The designers of our constitution understood the balance between inexperience and the need to have youthful representation when they set the age requirements of the House and Senate at 25 years old and 30 years old, respectively. What these men of the past failed to see was that it would become routine for people to live and serve in congress into their late 70s and 80s.
In the 117th congress, we have 11 senators aged 75 or older and 29 members of the house over the same age threshold. With there being only 100 senators, this means the elderly individuals are controlling over 10% of one of our key chambers of government.
This is not to say that no older populations should be allowed in government, as they can bring valuable experience and perspective. However, there is no logical reason for them to be overrepresented. This overrepresentation can spell trouble for our future as these policymakers lack a connection with the youth and the direction in which our age group wants to drive the country.
Due time for age limits
As a generation, we need to cooperate in order to raise the representative voice of the youth. We can do this by getting more involved with civil issues and standing up for what we believe in. With the way in which our system is run, we must push for change from the top in the way of term limits.
In data from the Congressional Research Service, we see that newly elected representatives average being almost eight years younger than their returning counterparts. A similar age gap is seen between newly elected senators and returning members of that chamber. These numbers point to what we already know: returning incumbents exacerbate our age representation problem.
Across elections, it has always been understood that the incumbent, or the person currently in the seat that is up for election, has a great advantage over whoever attempts to run against them. There have been multiple reasons for this, such as the greater number of resources they have because of connections gained from time in office, greater financial capital because of the large amounts of money in our government and the basic name recognition they bring with themselves.
In the House of Representatives, we have 14 members who served 16 terms. Over a dozen times, these same men and women are put into positions of power, even though they are 30 years removed from their initial campaign.
Looking at the Senate, over a tenth, or 13 senators have been serving since before the year 2000, meaning they have been passing legislation before many people of voting age were even born.
Too often, it seems we are hesitant to change when it comes to our elected officials. It is only when they do something extremely wrong that we call for them to be ousted, and even then there is sometimes a reluctance to put a new person in a position of power.
This is our problem, as it allows the same power brokers to drive policy for the future when they are commonly not forward-thinking.
Having the same voices dominate our country’s political discourse is beneficial for no common people. Instead, it leads to cohorts of power being created that prioritize their own schemes and agendas over those they are said to represent.
As election season approaches with its unending amount of smear ads and political rallies, we as the youth and future of this nation must look at factors beyond the normal talking points. In order to see a prosperous future, people from both political parties must support new and younger candidates. Only in this way will we be able to unite as a generation and push for policies that better all involved.
John Kulis is a sophomore staff writer currently studying Economics and Psychology. Do you think American voters should favor younger candidates in congressional elections? Send all comments to email@example.com.