veritas exquirere

Talon

veritas exquirere

Talon

veritas exquirere

Talon

America’s most prestigious nursing home: The federal government

It’s time for term and age limits

In August 2023, Business Insider reported that 90-year-old senator Dianne Feinstein had allegedly given power of attorney to her daughter. Feinstein’s senate office did not respond to Business Insider when asked for com

ment and it was speculated whether or not the agreement actually existed.

The story was sensationalized and backlash mostly stemmed from the fact Feinstein’s age was already being called into question. Giving up her ability to make decisions for herself to her daughter seemed like a clear indicator that she should not be making decisions for the United States of America. 

Oftentimes, when an incumbent is criticized for their age, people bring up the benefits of having people in office for multiple terms. The most common defense is that seniority is not a negative; more experience means better decision-making and insight into difficult policy decisions. 

About a month and a half later Feinstein passed away on Sept. 29, 2023.

Several government officials have had health scares seemingly tied to their age. Some of these instances include President Joe Biden mixing up government officials’ names and Senator Mitch McConnell freezing up while taking questions. 

These blunders have raised an important question for the general public: why are these people in office?

The answer is actually very simple: incumbency. The issue isn’t that people are suddenly being voted into government at 90-years-old, the issue is they’re voted in at maybe 40 or 50 and they continue in office until they’re at an age many consider inappropriate for a world leader.

Feinstein was elected to the Senate in 1992. She stayed in office until she died in 2023. She spent over 32 years in the same position, and she isn’t the only one. McConnell has been in the Senate since 1985, holding the same position for 38 years. Senator Chuck Grassley, representative Hal Rogers and representative Steny Hoyer have all been in office since 1981, for 43 years.

Statistically speaking, between the years 1964 and 2022, the incumbent representatives have had at minimum an 85% chance of reelection. The lowest reelection rate for senators was 55%, however the mean rate is 83.2%. In other words, once someone is in office they are almost guaranteed to be reelected.

Laura Wilson, associate professor of Political Science at University of Indianapolis, explains that an incumbent candidate is reelected due to name recognition.

“You’re more likely to get funding because, as an incumbent, you’re a proven winner. And with incumbency advantage — and funders know this — they want to support someone who they think is going to be elected in office, not someone who they think will probably lose,” Wilson said.

The name recognition is what causes incumbency to spiral out of control. It is normal for someone to be reelected once or twice, however, an issue arises when politicians are spending almost half their lives in office. Out of the names listed above Feinstein was the oldest elected into office at 59-years-old and Hoyer was the youngest at 42-years-old.

However, that argument loses ground when politicians are old enough to be experiencing mental decline.

Memory and Aging Center of University of California San Francisco explains that, regardless of diagnosed mental decline, our thinking abilities as humans wither with age. 

“We develop many thinking abilities that…very subtly decline with age. These age-related declines most commonly include overall slowness in thinking and difficulties sustaining attention, multitasking, holding information in mind and word-finding.”

It’s not to say that the elderly population is not respected. Their insight is valuable and there is much to be learned from such extensive experience. However, politicians need to recognize when it’s time to pass the torch and allow the next generation to lead our country into the future. 

Presidential term limits weren’t introduced until 1951 in the form of the 22nd Amendment. It explicitly stated that no president shall serve for more than two terms. It’s time we introduce a similar amendment for both house representatives and senators.

The amendment should not just be limited to the terms a representative or senator can serve, it should also quell the concerns of the general public when it comes to politicians’ age and how it affects their job performance.

The retirement age is 65, so why are our lawmakers still making laws when they should be making reservations for the early bird special?

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Emily Gluskin
Emily Gluskin, Opinion Editor
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