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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Capitol Hill is turning into an assisted living facility and Biden is the most ‘senior’ resident

Americans keep voting for politicians who are old, inept and unfit for office.

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Graphic by Rachel Wong

Voters in America are complacent. For years, we have elected and reelected politicians who, despite their supposed experience, are far too old to be serving at the highest levels of politics. Senior politicians have devolved into senior citizens. The current president is certainly not the only one with lapses in mental processing: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 83, misspoke when referring to President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., 82, has frozen multiple times during press conferences and Trump’s mental fitness has been questioned by fellow Republican candidate Nikki Haley. Prior to her death at age 90, Senator Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., had been absent from panels and hearings for more than two months due to shingles, an age-associated illness. Several politicians over the age of 80 have indicated their intentions to pursue reelection — most notably, Biden and Trump — even as some members of Congress receive prescriptions for Alzheimer’s medications. Given all these examples, we might have to add nurses, aides and attendants to the 2024 election ballots.

Trump and Biden are both over 75 years old and have displayed varying degrees of worsening mental acuity. As the incumbent, Biden’s competence receives considerably more media attention. He recently confused the presidents of Mexico and Egypt. Biden also addressed the special counsel’s report that described his memory as “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor” and having “significant limitations.” While his memory is clearly diminished considering his many recorded gaffes and mixups, he denied the accusations, responding to the group of reporters that his “memory is fine.” There are so many other examples of Biden displaying a memory that is far from perfect and mental fitness so inept that it would require a whole other article to list them all.

On the other side of the aisle, Trump has not been free from the occasional slip-up. Most recently, he confused Haley and Pelosi. He also falsely alleged that people need voter ID to purchase a loaf of bread. Compared to Biden’s gaffes, Trump’s gaffes receive less attention. Nevertheless, each one’s missteps should be a cause for concern for the average voter.

The age question extends beyond the West Wing. Given that as of 2023, the median age in the U.S. is 38.9 years old whereas the average ages in the House and Senate are 58.4 and 64.3, respectively, we are living in a gerontocracy, a government by the elderly. Among these politicians are notable names like McConnell, 82; Pelosi, 83; Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., 73; Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, 90; and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 82. Just yesterday, McConnell declared his intention to retire in November. The others have yet to make similar statements. 

There are several working theories as to why some older politicians refuse to step down, but the ones I’m most inclined to believe are denial and ego. Too many politicians — namely the ones over 65 years old — probably believe that they’re indispensable, a self-centered claim that in no way prioritizes the needs of the country. Voters need to start electing politicians who are not only young but also genuinely care about their constituents.

Biden’s presidency proves the importance of youth in the White House. The geriatric commander in chief has taken more time away from the White House than his predecessor. Each time he appears before the media, it looks like ‘Escape from Bellevue.’ Comedian Shane Gillis accurately joked that “anytime Biden finishes a speech, he transforms into a Roomba,” a quip that carries a great deal of truth as seen here. Confusion with direction is another symptom of Alzheimer’s.

Most importantly, though, we need term limits. Voting out the existing elderly politicians is just a temporary fix. I personally think politicians should be allowed to serve a maximum of two terms in the Senate and four in the House. Haley is right to call for competency tests for those over 75 years old. We have to stop electing and reelecting old politicians with dated politics, worsening health and compromised mental faculties. Putting America first starts with electing younger, competent politicians.