Should there be an age limit for Congress? | The Tylt
Should there be an age limit for Congress?
In Vox, Harold Pollack addresses the difficult topic of aging politicians losing cognitive ability. Pollack notes 23 senators are at least 70, and seven are 80 or older. While discussing age and mortality may be uncomfortable, Pollack argues it is a statistical reality that the risk of dementia doubles every five years after an individual turns 70, and we have seen examples of this play out in Congress.
Rumors regularly hit Washington about the cognitive function of various senators. Strom Thurmond served to age 100, and was visibly infirm and unable to perform his senatorial duties toward the end of his service.
If older members of Congress reliably become unable to perform their duties, shouldn't we consider enforcing age limits?
Disruptive medical tragedies are an unavoidable statistical consequence of this trend, as is the risk that key political actors will develop cognitive impairment. There's no easy solution to the problem, but it demands a frank conversation. Reforms such as term appointments for justices could help with the problem, but it’s just as important to try to shift societal norms to take more seriously some elemental realities of human aging.
But former U.S. congresswoman Eva M. Clayton argues in The New York Times that age is not the problem. Clayton believes it is up to the voters to decide how old is too old, and setting age limits means potentially discriminating against extremely talented and experienced politicians. What matters most is policy and performance, not an arbitrary number. Any effort to enforce age limits is to take away the right of voters to choose who they want to represent them.
If Congress focuses on improving our economy, reforming our broken immigration system, providing access to health care to the working poor or creating an open dialogue around gun safety measures, then perhaps we could focus on these issues as well -- and not on the frivolity of age.