It is time for age limits to be imposed on those seeking to represent the American people.

When one reaches their late septuagenarian, octogenarian, nonagenarian or centenarian status it is time to step down and let younger, healthier, more energetic, more socially aware, more culturally current and tech savvy people fight to win your seat.  Whether the case of Robert Byrd (D), the 92 year old nonagenarian who declined to the point of death while “serving the people” of the great state of West Virgina, Strom Thurmond (R), the centenarian representing North Carolina for a number of years , the ethically challenged octogenarian, 80 year old Rangel (D) or New York or the septuagenarian, John McCain of Arizona, who didn’t know how to use a computer running for President; it is time to change the rules of political engagement.

In the case of Robert Byrd, we’ve seen the turmoil created by his death in office resulting in delayed unemployment benefits, political churning in West Virginia and continual gamesmanship forcing him to be wheeled to the Senate floor for critical votes.  In the case of the 80 year old Rangel, we have a representative who in the 39 years he’s been in office is now being called to the carpet for his alleged ethical lapses.  In the case of John McCain, we saw a man who felt he had to balance his age with the energetic, half term Governor of Alaska.

I took a look at the age range of those over 75 years old in the Senate and found that 14 of our Senators fall into this category (including Herb Kohl), 33 were in their 60s, 31 were in their 50s and only nine were under 50, with Carte Goodwin, the interim appointment from West Virginia being the youngest and only Senator in his 30s at 36+ years old.

My suggestion would be to place an age limit of 75 on those seeking office.  This would allow a Senator to serve until they were 81, a Representative to serve until they were 77 and a President to serve until they were 79, if they were elected in the 75th year of their life.

As a quinquagenarian, I’m all for opening up opportunities for younger folks.

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18 Responses to Opinion: Time for septu-, octo-, nona- and cente- age limits

  1. Super Id says:

    You would have to amend the constitution to impose such limits.

    I would be in favor of tying congress pay to work. If they miss votes or meetings they should get a pay reduction.

  2. grumps says:

    I disagree. A lack of institutional memory can be stultifying. Arbitrary, mandatory limits would have the same unintended consequences of giving more importance to the lobbyists and sycophants and could actually serve to increase the power of the bureaucrats.

    It would be better to limit the incumbents hold on the monied interests and vice-versa if we wish to bring new blood into Congress. Finding a way to limit the incumbent’s advantage would make both of us happier, I think.

  3. xoff says:

    How about if we just start putting candidates’ ages on the ballot, instead of their parties?

    Or maybe race?

  4. MadCityMan says:

    Thanks for all your comments.

    Super Id – I wouldn’t be adverse to pay for participation, but this doesn’t help on the quality of their participation. You can have someone there for every vote who just pulls the lever without thinking, not that this would really happen .

    Grumps – Institutional memory does have some value, but so does fresh blood, new ideas and more contemporary thinking. Institutions of all sorts become stultified if they don’t change or evolve. Part of this evolution comes about through bringing in new blood. Ask GM or any of the other companies that were full of dinosaurs all from within their own industry or worse yet within their own companies – “we’ve always done it this way”.

    Xoff good idea (sarcasm intended). Maybe voters would start to pay attention. I think a picture next to the candidate on every ballot should also be mandatory. You could vote for your favorite babe or dude.

    • Super Id says:

      “You can have someone there for every vote who just pulls the lever without thinking, not that this would really happen.”

      They might just vote “present”

      I’m in agreement with Zach about letting the voters decide. But let’s not make it easy for the voters. Canidates names should be randomly placed on the ballot without party affiliations and the straight ticket option should be removed. The voters should have to individually select each candidate.

      • Locke says:

        But let’s not make it easy for the voters. Canidates names should be randomly placed on the ballot without party affiliations and the straight ticket option should be removed. The voters should have to individually select each candidate.

        I’ve made that very same comment before. If you don’t actually know the party of a candidate, you have no business voting for him or her.

        How about taking it one step further – no names! All races are write in & you gotta spell the name right. I’m only half joking on the last part.

  5. Alex says:

    Actually the age limit idea makes a lot more sense to me than term limits, although it would probably be ruled unconstitutional and require an amendment to the Constitution.

    In terms of institutional memory, as far as I’m concerned, if you want to serve from age 30 to age 75 (45 years), that’s fine. But that should be all. It should then be time for someone new to step up.

  6. Zach says:

    Ultimately, I think it should be left to the voters to decide if a candidate’s age should disqualify them from serving.

  7. Jason Haas says:

    John Foust has a good idea over on illy t’s blog: have “charming and catchy five-word slogans to add to future ballots.”

    While I agree with Zach, thank you MadCityMan for spurring this discussion. It’s neat to read it.

    That said, I think we could pass amendments on more useful things. (I don’t have any in mind.)

    • MadCityMan says:

      Thanks for the comment Jason. Maybe I’m just being a cranky old man. I for one can’t imagine why an 80 year old would want the trials and tribulations of being a Senator or a President for that matter.

  8. Locke says:

    I’d much rather see term limits. Age limits strike me as blatantly discriminatory. Ability to do the job has nothing to do with age.

  9. forgotmyscreenname says:

    Would you extend the age disqualifier to the President and Supreme Court as well? How about term limits for SC justices?

    • MadCityMan says:

      I would for Presidents, see my original post on this that included McCain in the example. I probably would for SC Justices too.

  10. Greg says:

    I think voters are perfectly capable of making these decisions on their own. Ted Kennedy was a great Senator until the day he died and was rewarded at the polls for it, while Ted Stevens was tossed on his ass for being crooked.

    That said, I think fixed terms would be a good idea for federal judges. Short of impeachment, there’s no way for anyone to remove them, so an infirm judge could stay on the bench well past his or her ability to do the job. Further, if there were fixed terms, there would be no benefit to appointing young justices who’ll stay there until they die. And SC judges wouldn’t be able to game the system by waiting until they have a president they like to retire.

  11. proud progressive says:

    At least when they are older they have the benefit of experience. In our village board we have a 21 year old and we are vastly underserved by his lack of intelligence. We also have a woman in her 70s that is the smartest and best rep by far on our board!

  12. bofcudahy says:

    I just say NO to ageism! It also greatly annoyed me to see people attacking John McCain over his age, both then and now.

  13. snap-ed says:

    I totally disagree with age-limits. It’s wrong and crappy. These are people who are VOTED it, it’s not like they’re refusing to leave after having been proven incompetent or something. Age-ism is intense in this country. It’s dumb, it’s horrible.
    and i find your reasoning and underlying values extremely disconcerting

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