Should we elect more Millennials to Congress?
via AP

Should we elect more Millennials to Congress?

#ElectMillennials
#ExperienceOverAge
Join the conversation and vote below

Establishment Democrat Joe Crowley was defeated by 28-year-old democratic-socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and many feel her victory proves Americans are tired of the dinosaurs in Congress. John McCain is 81, Orrin Hatch is 83 and Dianne Feinstein is 84. What the U.S. Congress really needs is some fresh, young leaders. But others argue more experience is a good thing, and we shouldn't discriminate against politicians just because they're old. What do you think? 👩🏽👴🏻

THE VOTES ARE IN!
#ElectMillennials
76.8%
#ExperienceOverAge
23.2%

In perhaps the most shocking election upset this year, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York's 14th district. Many feel this big win indicates Americans are ready for newer, younger leadership in Congress.

Congress is currently dominated by baby boomers who likely won't live to see the consequences of the legislation they pass. It's high time we send more Millennials to Congress.

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 we shouldn't discriminate against extremely talented and experienced politicians just because we want to see younger faces. What matters most is policy and performance, not an arbitrary number. Sure, more Millennials in Congress may be a good thing, but we should ultimately prioritize experience over age.

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. 

Vox's Harold Pollack argues age is something to be considered because it is directly linked to a decline in 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.

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.

If older members of Congress reliably become unable to perform their duties, shouldn't we make electing younger leaders a priority?

But others still push back against the notion that newer is intrinsically better. Nancy Pelosi is 78 years old and she is one of the most talented Democrats in Congress. She is often attacked for being too old and out-of-touch, but if liberals really want to get things done, they should keep people like Pelosi around.

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