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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Why Do We Elect the Elderly?


I don’t think it’s controversial or outlandish for me to say that the current US president isn’t exactly known for his quick mind and youthful exuberance. Maybe he was when he first joined the world of politics – fifty years ago. President Biden has a long career behind him, and I am not trying to discredit him in any way. However, the sad reality is that his mental abilities are not what they used to be, as is the case with almost anyone who lives into their 80s. [Editor’s Note: President Biden will be 82 in November 2024; former President Trump will be 78 in June 2024.]

Another example of a politician who suffered mental decline during their political career is the recently deceased Senator Dianne Feinstein. She served as a senator until her last days, and there is a video of her not being fully cognizant when voting in the Senate. This, once again, does not discredit her career but makes one wonder why someone who was well into her 80s was elected to the Senate. [Editor’s Note: US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be 82 in February 2024.]

So, why do we elect older people into office? Incumbency plays a big role, as people are often more comfortable with electing someone that they have already heard the name of. It’s easier, but not the best course of action. When voting, it is one’s duty to think their decisions through, not be passive. I, personally, would rather have the representatives of my country appear to be sharp-minded and strong, not forgetful and frail. One way to prevent this would be through implementing maximum age limits for government seats.

In the United States, one must be 35 to run for president, 30 for a Senate seat, and 25 for a seat in the House of Representatives. Having age limits is perfectly reasonable, as people are often less educated and more reckless in their decision-making in the earlier years of their lives. Similarly, people’s minds don’t work as sharply and their health gets poorer in the later years of their lives. This brings up the question: How old is too old for office? While there isn’t one definite age when every single person starts declining mentally, would it be reasonable to look for an average age of mental and physical impairment and set a limit?

All of this being said, it is true that some people might be completely capable of carrying out their duties well into their later years. However, another issue arises. Their ideas often age with them. A great amount has changed since the rise of technology, and modern-day problems need to be viewed through a more modern lens. We currently have people who did not grow up with the internet and are not technologically literate trying to regulate AI, a very advanced form of technology. It only makes sense to have a younger person or someone who is aware of modern technology in charge of a task like this, but instead, we have the same people who have been making decisions for decades.

I am not writing this to say that all older politicians are decrepit and unfit for office. However, I want to bring the issue to light because it is very concerning. It highlights a bigger issue, which is that people vote passively. Voting because you know a name or because you happen to be a member of one party is not a wise decision. Rather, our civic duty is to use our discretion and make an educated vote. After all, the fate of the country is at stake.

Photo by Elements 5 on Unsplash

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    Chuck BinsApr 2, 2024 at 4:51 pm

    You do make some good points here. Presidents are subject to term limits; and I believe those in Congress should be. To answer your question another way, many people say wisdom comes with age. While that may not always be the case, for me, moral character is the most important criteria, especially for U.S. President. Being able to distinguish between fact and fiction, right and wrong should also be a prerequisite.