Why are U.S. politicians so old? And why do they want to stay in office? – Virginia Mercury

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In the year When former President Bill Clinton was at the White House in early 2023, he was there to celebrate the 30th anniversary with President Joe Biden. Family and Medical Leave Act. It was hard to avoid the fact that Clinton had been in office for three decades — at just 77, he was somehow three years younger than Biden.

Biden, who is now 80 years old, The first octogenarian to hold the Oval Office – and his main rival is former President Donald Trump, who is 77 years old. An October 2023 Monmouth University poll found that nearly three-quarters of voters thought it was Biden. Too old for the officeand nearly half of voters think Trump is too old to serve.

My former boss, President George HW Bush, chose not to challenge Clinton again in the 1996 election. If he had run and won, he would have been 72 at the 1997 graduation. Rather, he I enjoyed the great second act It is filled with humanitarian causes, skiing and grandchildren. Bush’s post-presidential life, and American retirement ideas In general, raise the question of why these two men – Biden and Trump – are more than a decade and a half old. Average American retirement age – They are moving forward again One of the hardest jobs in the world.

A trend for the elderly

Trump and Biden are two of the three oldest men to ever serve as president. William Henry Harrison held for 140 years Record He became the oldest person to be elected president until Ronald Reagan. Harrison was a relatively spry 68 when he took office in 1841, and Reagan was 69 when he was first inaugurated in 1981.

When Reagan left office at age 77, he was the oldest person to serve as president. Trump left office at age 74, making him the third-oldest to hold the office, behind Reagan and Biden.

According to the Census Bureau, Middle age in America He is 38.9 years old. But with Average age in the House and Senate At 58 and 64, respectively, the term often used to describe the country’s ruling class is “gerontocracy.”

Teen VogueA recent story explaining the term to young voters described it as “a government run by old people.” Gerontocracies are very common among religious leaders e.g The Vatican Or Ayatollah in Iran. They were also common as Communist ruling committees. Soviet Politburo during the cold war. Elderly leaders are not uncommon in democracies.

Beyond the White House

Biden and Trump aren’t the only aging leaders in the U.S. It’s a bipartisan trend: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, is 72, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, is 81. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley was re-elected. And he was 90 years old, he had no plans for retirement. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is 81 and hasn’t said anything about retirement.

California Democrat and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 83, has announced her re-election bid. 19th full-time career. Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, who serves as a nonvoting representative from Washington, D.C., and Eleanor Holmes Norton, both 86. Kentucky Republican Harold Rogers and California Democrat Maxine Waters are both 85. They are Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland. 84. of The list goes onAnd none of these politicians have indicated that they will retire.

A local pharmacist on Capitol Hill made headlines a few years ago when he revealed that he Filling Alzheimer’s prescriptions To members of Congress. Each of the 20 veteran members of Congress At least 80, and that’s it Since 1789, the third largest House and Senate.

Deferred retirement

What’s going on here?

Most baby boomers who delay retirement do so because they are. I can’t afford it To stop working, due to inflation or lack of savings. But all these political leaders have a lot of money in the bank – Many are millionaires.. They are happy to retire Government pension And Health care benefits In addition to Medicare. So it may not be financially viable for them.

A concept is denial. No one likes to be reminded of their own mortality. I know people who equate retirement with death, often because of others who have died after resigning – which may explain why both. Senator Dianne Feinstein And Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg He remained at work for a long time, living between the ages of 90 and 87.

For others, it depends on who you are. Many of the senior leaders I have met have worked so hard that their entire identity is tied to their work. Also, years of hard work mean they have no hobbies to enjoy in their remaining years.

Another theory is ego. Some legislators think they are indispensable—they are the only ones who can do the job. They are not exactly humble.

In the political world, their desire is often for power. These are the kinds of things you’re thinking: Why don’t I want to keep casting the deciding vote in a closely divided House or Senate, or give speeches and ride around on Air Force One as president, or tell myself I’m saving democracy?

It’s easy to understand why some would want to leave.

Age restrictions?

There have been calls for an age limit for federally elected offices. after all, Federal law enforcement Have compulsory retirement at 57 National park rangers. However, the most stressful job in the world has no upper age limit.

For those who think mandatory retirement is too age-centric and arbitrary, there are other options: Republican nominee Nikki Haley has called for it. Mandatory mental aptitude tests Although for elected leaders 75 and older Passing is not a requirement for officeAnd failure is not grounds for removal. In September 2023, the poll shows Most Americans support the aptitude test. That way the public knows who is sharp and who is not. Sounds like a good idea to me.

So does the generosity of stepping aside and thinking of others. And having the wisdom to realize that life is short and about more than going to work. And we are blessed to do what the nation’s second youngest president, John F. Kennedy, said: Pass the torch to the new generation of America.

My colleague Professor Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia; It keeps well.: “I’m 70 years old, so I feel very sorry for these people. 80 seems a lot younger as far as I’m concerned.” But no, it’s funny. We need to get people in their 50s and early 60s back to the polls. and the Election shows Most Americans say, “Amen, brother.”

This article was reprinted from The conversation Under a Creative Commons license. Read Original text.

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