Yes, it’s called gerontocracy…
With most results from election day in, the House and Senate are looking pretty similar to their previous makeup, thanks to numerous senior citizen politicians who have spent decades in their positions, such as Nancy Pelosi.
While President Trump and others have expressed support for the implementation of term limits in the past, the idea is one that remains more of a topic for hypothetical discussion rather than potential legislation. The arguments for term limits are mainly that it would combat lobbying arms by keeping the turnover rate in Congress high, as well as keeping politicians more representative of their constituents by limiting the amount of time they spend in office.
Such a concept is likely still far down the line, considering the number of politicians who continually walk away with victories despite being challenged again and again by younger, fresher opponents.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) easily won her district, earning nearly 80 percent of the vote. At 80 years old, Pelosi, the speaker of the house, has served since 1987.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-California) will be holding onto her seat, beating Republican Joshua Scott 66 percent to 34 percent, with 50 percent of polls reporting. She has served in Congress since 1999 and now will most likely not leave office until she is nearly 90.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey), 83, will also hold onto his seat, having won over 67 percent of the vote against Republican Billy Prempeh’s 30 percent. Pascrell will also now most likely not be leaving office until he’s nearly 90. He’s been representing New Jersey since 1997.
84-year-old Alcee Hastings (D-Florida) won his race with nearly 80 percent of the vote. Serving since 1992, Hastings will not leave office until he’s 90.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), 84, can also celebrate her 90th birthday in Congress, as she won her district by a landslide – a district she has represented since 1993.
On the Republican side, Sen. Don Young (R-Alaska) will likely be serving well into his 90s, having earned around 64 percent of the vote in his district against Democrat Alyse Galvin’s 36 percent. Around 50 percent of polls are reporting. He has served in his position since 1973, making him the longest-serving Republican in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who has served as the Senate majority leader, is actually one of the longest serving senators in US history. First elected in 1984, he’s served a whopping 35 years and we are now guaranteed to have him around for another six years after his Tuesday victory against Democrat challenger Amy McGrath.
For comparison’s sake, McConnell’s fellow Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, is 57 and has served since 2011.
At 78 years old, McConnell will be holding his seat until he’s at least 84.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) are also some of the longest serving US senators, with nearly 100 years on the job between them, at 87 and 80 years old respectively. Those two, however, will not be up for reelection until 2022.
85-year-old Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) won his race, too, with 63 percent of the vote. He will keep a seat he has occupied since being elected in 1994.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was facing an expensive challenger in Democrat Sara Gideon but has been projected the winner of her race. Collins, 67, has held her seat since 1997 and is, like McConnell, now likely taking on another six years.
Time for a change
Despite many holding office well into the typical retirement age, many voters have at least shown a liking for younger, more diverse candidates in recent years. Democrats have taken to electing more radical liberals, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), who in 2018 was the youngest person ever elected to the House of Representatives, at 29. She handily won reelection on Tuesday evening.
Republicans, meanwhile, have turned toward more libertarian-minded Republicans with experience outside of politics, like Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), a 36-year-old former Navy SEAL who just won reelection in Texas.
Whether one agrees with these or other candidates is beside the point. Their success shows there is a growing desire for younger representatives with experience more diverse than serving in politics for decades.
Age, however, still generally skews higher when it comes to members of Congress. The average age for members of Congress in 2018, for instance, was 57 years old for the House of Representatives and 62 for the Senate.
The real issue, though, is when politicians are breezing past these ages while building a career in politics. Holding a six-year seat while 90 is around the corner and you’ve already had decades to fix whatever problems you’re still talking about is not a recipe for success. Politicians should not be running to keep a job or hold onto a position of power, but instead running on ideas that make a community they are involved in better. That will never happen as long as Congress continues to be made up of relics of the past, entrenched in their bureaucracy and party affiliation. That’s exactly how things don’t change.