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Political dinosaurs – a problem of democracy?

– Congress has been democratically non-representative for a long time and the situation is only getting worse with time. In the past 40 years, the average age of members of the House of Representatives has increased by ten years, Axel Sundström, a lecturer in political science, tells TT.

Democrat Biden has already written himself into the history books as America’s oldest-ever president. He has many of his peers in the corridors of power. Party colleague and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who recently resigned as Speaker of the House, turns 82. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turns 80.

The average age among the 435 members of the House of Representatives is 58, about 20 years older than the average age of a voter.

Less than 35 years of age

In order to find out why this is so and where young politicians fall away, Sundstrom, along with Daniel Stockemer, a professor of political science at the University of Ottawa, analyzed the nominations and selection of candidates for the 2020 primaries and looked at the age of those already elected to the House of Representatives. They find that the young are sorted by stages.

– Young people are unlikely to make it to Congress. The decisive factor in being elected, says Sundstrom, is the accumulated experience, i.e. sitting in an electable seat or having campaigned before.

Such experience, for obvious reasons, is difficult for a young candidate to gain for the first time. Republicans and Democrats probably know that. The average age of the 2020 candidates was 51.5 years. Only 11 percent of the candidates were 35 or younger.

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unwelcome?

In addition, in the United States there are age limits for politicians. To be elected to the House of Representatives, you must be 25 years old and 30 to become a Senator. But there is no limit to the number of times you can be re-elected.

A fundamental problem of American democracy. It sends a signal that young people are not welcome. In our opinion, it would be a reasonable reform to limit the number of mandates a person can sit in Congress, Sundstrom points out.

However, such a change is highly unlikely. This is because it must be approved by Congress itself, as there are politicians currently in office who have been in office for decades.

Young wants

The researchers say that the current situation prevents renewal and renewal of the policy.

– It strengthens the indifference that young people feel towards official politics. Youth voter turnout is low. Youth concerns do not appear on the agenda to the same extent.

Trinidad and Tobago: Do ​​Americans want it that way?

– No, polls show that they want younger politicians and the maximum age is 75 for the president.

California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi snapped in early January when she handed the baton of House Speaker Republican Kevin McCarthy. Pelosi has been in Congress since 1987 and in March she turns 83. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP/TT

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Minority Leader, turns 81 in February.  McConnell has served in the Senate for 38 years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Minority Leader, turns 81 in February. McConnell has served in the Senate for 38 years. Photo: Patrick Simanski/AP/TT

Congress is the federal legislative assembly of the United States and is housed in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Its work runs at two-year intervals. On January 3, 2023, the 118th Congress began.

Congress consists of the Senate with 100 members, two from each state, and the House of Representatives with 435 seats, distributed among the states’ population.

There are currently 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats in the Republican-led House of Representatives. One vacant seat. President Kevin McCarthy is leading the action.

In the Senate, Democrats have 48 seats and the support of three independents, giving the party a majority. Republicans have 49 members. The majority leader is New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years. Senators are elected for six years. Their terms are run alternately, every two years, one-third of the Senate’s term of office expires.

Congress makes federal laws, decides taxes and appropriations, and approves ministers and other high officials. Federal officials, including the president, and judges can be removed by Congress through impeachment. The Supreme Court can overturn laws passed by Congress.

Source: United States Congress, House Press Gallery