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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

How old is too old to serve?

The actions of aging lawmakers reinforce the need for younger candidates
Infographic by Lindsey Komson / Photo contributed by Jack Spiegel

Groundbreaking California lawmaker Sen. Dianne Feinstein died on Sept. 29 at the age of 90. She was a strong advocate for gun control and was a role model for many women.

Her death is sad but, frankly, not shocking. Feinstein was the oldest-sitting U.S. senator and member of Congress. With her age only increasing and mental state decreasing, it raised the question: How old is too old to serve?

According to Pew Research Center, the median age of current national leaders is 62. However, an Axios poll showed that 77% of Americans surveyed agree that there should be an age limit for elected officials and 75% of people think it should be 70 years old or lower.

It’s interesting knowing that our last two presidents were over that ideal age. Former President Donald Trump was 70 years old when he was elected, and President Joe Biden was 78.

Former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi is 82. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is 90, and he is now the oldest serving member of Congress following Feinstein’s death. 80-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent blunders, such as freezing for extended periods of time during a press conference — first happening on July 26 -— also showed the consequences of his advanced age.

This wasn’t the first time an elderly political leader has had their mental state questioned. An aide whispered, “Just say ‘aye’” to Feinstein on July 27, when she started giving a speech when the House had already moved on to the voting process for a bill. A spokesperson claimed she was just “preoccupied,” but many viewers who watched the committee vote don’t buy that and blamed her old age.

Not every elderly person is in a poor state of mind. There are many elderly people who are still as sharp as they were when they were 30 years ago. But how can we tell?

Republican presidential candidate and former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, expressed her support for mental competency tests for elected federal officials over 75 years of age.

Given that the majority of people surveyed in the Axios poll believe the limit should be 70 years old, a mental competency test for 75-year-old candidates doesn’t seem like a bad idea. However, this seems like a lot of work just to allow candidates over 75 to run, when it’s possible to presume they might not be up to the job.

Shouldn’t we just be looking for candidates that can relate to younger voters?

The Republican presidential candidates have taken the debate stage twice, and in the second debate, Commentator Stuart Varney asked whether TikTok should be banned or not due to the claim that it poses a threat to national security.

The candidates were quick to say that TikTok should be banned. But with the oldest Republican on the campaign trail being nearly 80 years old, this makes you wonder, could any of these candidates actually use TikTok?

The only candidate who has proven to be the exception is Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old millennial candidate who is using (and overusing) TikTok on his campaign trail. Other than Ramaswamy, I would bet money that half of those candidates can’t figure out how to use the app. It’s important for candidates to know about the “issues” they’re talking about, but in this case, most of them don’t.

While it may give you second-hand embarrassment watching Ramaswamy attempt to sing “You Belong with Me” by Taylor Swift from the guy’s perspective, he is getting a completely broader audience than the others.

The older generations are notorious for wanting nothing to do with technology that the younger generations love. It’s clear when looking at the candidates, they are less tolerant about issues that involve social media when they’re older.

The older the candidate, the less likely they can relate with younger voters. But it’s almost like they refuse to relate to them. I don’t want to vote for someone in charge of creating a better future when they won’t acknowledge that technology is their future. Elected officials should learn to embrace it.

It’s important that we can put our trust in our leaders. But it’s difficult to do that when we aren’t sure which of them are in the right state to lead.

A mental competency test would be assuring and fair and would help our government run more efficiently, but so could looking for younger candidates that are better suited to understanding current issues and relating to younger voters.

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About the Contributors
Lillian Curtin
Lillian Curtin, Opinion Editor
Lindsey Komson
Lindsey Komson, Associate Design Editor

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