Downing: Father Time is coming for the gerontocracy

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Time waits for no man and it’s not waiting for the decrepit members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The issue of age in American politics is increasingly impossible to overlook. While President Joe Biden is at the center of this discussion, the reality of being too old to govern extends beyond the presidency to encompass a cadre of aging lawmakers.

Increasingly, it appears that these elected officials are figureheads, with their day-to-day responsibilities being managed by their unelected staff, as they clutch tightly to the titles and prestige that come with public office.

Recently, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) experienced another momentary lapse, pausing for an uncomfortably long period when asked about his plans for reelection in 2026. It seemed like an eternity. This episode echoes a similar incident that occurred in July, during which he seemed to lose his ability to respond to a straightforward question from journalists.

In addition to these nonverbal stumbles, McConnell has had a series of health issues. In 2019, he suffered a fractured shoulder after a fall at his home in Louisville. More alarmingly, in March of this year, he endured a concussion after falling at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Washington, D.C., sidelining him for six weeks and putting his minority leadership in question. As he approaches his 82nd birthday in February, it raises legitimate questions about his ability to perform the duties of his office effectively until the end of his term in 2026.

McConnell’s staff members, rather tellingly, were ready to step in during this latest episode. While their intervention might be seen as dutiful, it also points to a larger concern: Who is truly at the helm of our government — elected officials or the aides that are keeping them going?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the oldest member of Congress at 90, serves as another case in point. Multiple reports suggest that she shows signs of cognitive decline, and her staff strategically keeps her away from media scrutiny. Last year, lawmakers informed the San Francisco Chronicle that they had to reintroduce themselves to Feinstein multiple times during policy discussions.

“Feinstein, 88, repeated the same small-talk questions, like asking the lawmaker what mattered to voters in their district, the member of Congress said, with no apparent recognition the two had already had a similar conversation,” the newspaper reported.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will turn 84 next March, and former President Donald Trump, who would be 82 at the end of a hypothetical second term if elected in 2024, are also part of this aging political landscape. While both seem to be in relatively good health, age is a factor that is inevitably ticking against them.

The consequences of politicians holding onto office well past their prime can be far-reaching. For instance, Alaska faced an unexpected shift in representation when Congressman Don Young passed away in March 2022 at the age of 88. His sudden death led to the election of Mary Peltola, a far-left Democrat, resulting in a significant ideological swing for the state in Congress, putting Alaska in the minority with a representative who voted 18 times for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries for speaker, and who voted against parents’ rights, against women’s athletic integrity, and in favor of D.C. street criminals.

This begs the question: Are lawmakers prioritize governance over the allure of holding onto power, especially when their ability to serve effectively is in severe decline? States like Kentucky and California are now grappling with the same issues Alaska faced last year. Will McConnell and Feinstein fizzle to the finish line, or will they, like Young, exit office in a manner that disrupts their entire state?

It’s time for a candid national discussion about the implications of an aging political class. George Washington became president when he was 57, and he died at age 67. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he became the youngest member of the second continental Congress, and he was 57 when he was elected president. James Madison became president at age 57, and died at 85.

Today, people are living longer, so even though the bulge of Baby Boomers is nearing its end, this tendency to stick around as a seat-warmer in the halls of Congress is not going away.

We already do have age limits: In the House, members must be at least 25 years old to serve, and it’s 30 in the Senate. Rather than allowing ego and power to supersede good governance, we must consider whether an age cap at the other end of the spectrum could better serve us in the House and Senate, which are after all, meant to be a representative democracy, not God’s waiting room.

Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Who better than a pathetic gaggle of mentally, intellectually and physically declining geriatrics to be the figurehead leaders of a rapidly declining empire?

  2. When you care more about your elite status than you do about your country, this is the type of behavior you can expect from those is position of elitist power in the dictatorship of Washington.

  3. What comes next? Generation Tide Pod?

    The next generation of “leaders” will really expose how broken our education system has become.

  4. Well if we can’t have term limits, how about age limits? The constitution already delineates a minimum age for certain offices, why not a cap as well?? Before you say “but some 80 year olds are spry and can do it” I counter with, some 25 y/o are not mature enough to handle the job (AOC anyone), but they get to run and serve anyway. I think 70 would be perfect!

  5. There currently are two systems in the U.S. One for those that are in “The Club” and everyone else. If we truly had fair elections the politicians that stay past their prime would suffer consequences for their actions/inactions. Until we have fair elections we will have selections that keep these puppets or idiots in power.

    There should be term limits on all public offices, including the Anchorage Assembly. Mail in ballots continue to ensure victory for “The Club” or globalists, or elitists. Ranked Choice Voting must be abolished nationwide or soon “The Club” will own everything and we the people will own nothing.

    If Congress was doing their job we wouldn’t have the abolishment of small businesses while mega monopolies go unchecked. When one entity owns all food production we won’t be able to afford food. Same for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, banking, etc.,etc., etc.

    If Congress was doing their job, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. would have been reigned in and we wouldn’t have politicalization or weaponization of the justice system. Biden should be charged with treason along with the rest of the cronies like Fauci that are destroying the U.S. Public servants are supposed to be elected to serve We the People, not the globalists and elitists.

    99% of the population must start pushing back against the 1% globalist agenda. We the People can not allow another plandemic! We the People can not allow climate hoax to continue! We the People can not allow our future, our children and grandchildren’s futures to be destroyed. I do not consent to this madness. It is time for all Constitutional Rights to be restored.

    Anyone that doesn’t want to be part of the 99% push back should move to 15 minute cities aka prisons because you won’t be allowed to leave. In the 15 minute cities you will be required to give up your 2nd Amendment Rights, you will not be allowed to eat meat or dairy and will only be allowed to purchase three new articles of clothing a year. You won’t even be able to drink yourself into oblivion because you will only be allowed two beers a week. In WEF Klaus Scwhab’s words, “You will own nothing and be happy.” If you don’t believe me, go do your own research.

    • Pardon the interruption, but if memory serves the Anchorage Assembly already has a “term limit” as members can only serve three consecutive terms (total of 9 years). I agree with you on mail-in balloting and RCV, but you lost me with your “15 minute cities”.

    • Better have a good Autopilot, so when the Pilot goes full Mitch you won’t know. Of course Trump will just hire the best, most smart, perhaps the best ever 77 yr old pilots for himself, that being said the only flying they will be doing is prison transfers.

  6. I’m also thinking that Daddy’s Little Princess falls into this category as well!?!?
    Let’s face it, she doesn’t know if she’s a Republican or a Liberal Democrat?
    Either way, she’s a bonafide liability and udder embarrassment for Alaska and Alaskans!

    • Do you suppose Pelosi s daughter empties Feinsteins diaper a few times a day. …?? Seriously this is how bad it is. It’s a geriatric ward running our country. With a crooked moron at the helm. Let’s see what possibly could go wrong. War in Europe brewing, war in Africa brewing, war in china/Taiwan brewing, and goofy kim in NK making threats. And of course our wonderful media flipping numbers lying about everything and misinforming the American people.

  7. The old duffers don’t know when to quit. They stumble around, brains fogged with growing dementia, and their staff keep plenty of Depends on hand. This is a burden on the public and on the country. Term limits and AGE limits seem more acceptable than ever.

    • Do you suppose Pelosi s daughter empties Feinsteins diaper a few times a day. …?? Seriously this is how bad it is. It’s a geriatric ward running our country. With a crooked moron at the helm. Let’s see what possibly could go wrong. War in Europe brewing, war in Africa brewing, war in china/Taiwan brewing, and goofy kim in NK making threats. And of course our wonderful media flipping numbers lying about everything and misinforming the American people.

  8. I fully agree with the article and it identifies one of the main reasons I will not vote for Biden or Trump. Both are old, past prime, and offer nothing new. (There are other reasons.)

    A related problem is that for too many of these oldsters they have been in government and power far too long. They can no longer relate to normal people. In Trump’s case, he has never had to face any significant hardship due to lack of resources or attention. In Biden’s case, he has been in government effectively his entire life and has never answered to an actual boss. Neither has sacrificed much of anything at any time.

    We need to insist on better leaders going forward. As noted: I ain’t gonna vote for Biden or Trump.

  9. Perhaps the age of mandatory retirement for commercial airline pilots should be connected to the mandatory retirement age of those within all branches of the United States Government, across all agencies and positions, whether elected or not.

    Afterall, if there is an age limit as to who can pilot a commercial airliner within a safely accepted manner, should there not also be an age limit as to who can pilot a Nation within the same manner?

    Of course, term limits would help as well.

  10. I guess in a nutshell it’s a sign todays generation (boomers, gen x, millennials) clutch to the things of this world to feel like their lives are not as empty as they are without God.

    Even MRAK need to be looking toward who of a younger generation will be faithful loyal to follow the mission set by MRAK founders.

    A good leader who knows they are aging trains and equips multiple candidates to take over just in case one (their favorite) doesn’t work out they have a #2, # 3, #4 all knowing how to serve as a servant and as a team leader and as a team humble to serve one another and the one acting as team leader. Sometimes God had other plans whim he chooses. His choice isn’t always our #1 he may choose #4 choice as the better successor. That’s why aging leaders should pray and be in bible so he chooses successors and teams wisely instead of only relying on their human experience.

    This is why I add at the end of my messages parents of the younger GenZ need to be reading quality books plus bible to their youngins, so they more ready for employment. and parents of older GenZ need to encourage their 15 and older GenZ to work now and be faithful so they are more ready to do what God calls them like a couple young writers and researchers working along with Suzanne and Quick even being okay volunteering part-time. Mrak is a special place. the younger leaders millennials or GenZ would have to be a special type whom have grace, intelligence, forgiveness, a bit of education applicable for the work as writing skills, technology knowledge, and research, creativity, humility, compassion, and social intuitiveness and developed good social etiquette that they can get along with people without rudeness, cause Suzanne and John set a high standard of service and product for its next leaders to reach.

  11. There needs to be a mandatory age limit on all politicians at every level. Term limits and at age 65 years old, forced retirement.

  12. And I am okay about 80 year olds still serving our nation and state in a community leadership position as long as he has the energy and stamina for fulfilling his job duties plus their mind is as sharp as it was at 40.

    Cause then the people will be guilty of age discrimination and that kind of attitude would spill over to employers reluctance hiring 65+ year olds. And! In a state as Alaska we got an aging generation of millennials and gen x including boomers whom made poor choices during younger years who should had been employed or be seeking employment at 60. By the time they figure it out may need to be hired at 60 to work another 15 years or 50 to work another 25 years. I’d hate to see society harden their hearts toward age discrimination lacking discernment who it hires based on age.

  13. Almighty God, in his great mercy to mankind, has determined that none us will live for much more than eighty-ninety years. Otherwise, we the people would be ruled for who knows how long – a thousand years? – by an elite cadre of degenerate politicians. Imagine, if you can bear to do so, that human history’s most glorious politicians – let’s say, for example, Ivan the Terrible, Fidel Castro, and our own “Consoler of Maui” Joseph Biden – yet remained in office. Well, at least two out of the three have departed to their reward, and the third one has his own appointed time.

  14. Speaking of Don Young, Nick Begich ran against him saying he was too old to continue in office. Don Young died in office less than 6 months later. He just wouldn’t lay it down and Alaskans couldn’t imagine life without him. Here we are.

    • DY should have retired.
      I liked him, but he had a BIG ego (like all pols I guess)
      Same w/ TS actually.
      Give it up dudes, you had great lives give someone else a shot.

    • And better yet if Don Young and Ted Stevens generation of leaders better trained and equipped who’d spent more quality time with todays boomers, genX, and millennials 20-40 years than who we become today -leaders that struggle with narcissism and competition with one another to be better than one another like top forty under forty contests, public recognitions and awards campaigns, legislative and city proclamations gushing over individuals. More importantly pouring into boomers, genX, and millennial leaders bible character lessons by their own examples and mentoring, so whenever leaders as Stevens and young died we aren’t facing the mess Alaska faces today especially the low literacy of education and God’s Word of Alaskans. You know Young and Stevens generation knew more of God’s Word than todays generations- boomers, genX, millennials, and GenZ.

  15. While I like the idea of term limits, it fails on multiple counts and has only one redeeming feature – forcing out those who are too infirm to serve. Age limits the same, but we waste the service of those still competent. The possible reduction in corruption sounds good, but makes the corruptors more aggressive in compromising the inexperienced, and to their greater success. We as a nation have forgotten to revere the wisdom of the aged – do we really want to trust our future to a forty-year-old? We tried that – and our enemies tested him to the brink of nuclear war. So what to do… We have a Constitutional mechanism for forcing out mentally incompetent presidents – it should be applied to congress as well. But be forewarned: you think politics is ugly now? You ain’t seen nothin’ – proving in a court of law that a person of power and wealth is mentally incompetent… will make TDS and hair-sniffer-phobia look like two-year-olds in a sandbox… (Come to think of it, it already does!) McConnell & Feinstein should have been grooming, mentoring, and popularizing successors ten years ago. brandon should never have run… Trump, as much as I love his policies, is likely finished – his mouth, not the persecution, has done him in. I’ll still vote for President Trump – if he gets the nomination and is allowed to run… The nextgen politicos are all products of communist public schools, and this Boomer is highly suspicious… But when it’s time to go, GO!

    • President Kennedy was a forty year old who held a strong faith in God and a firm believer in God’s Word. He had God’s wisdom as well as intellect. You know Kennedy’s favorite Bible book? It was Ecclesiastes. A credit to his mother Rose Kennedy teaching her Faith was important to her that she passed on to her children. Todays forty year olds. Its painful seeing them in leadership. Just like not giving the boot to the aged leaders shouldn’t be quick giving God of Israel the boot. Else they deserve what’s coming to them and us as a nation that forgot about God.

  16. The article is over simplistic of the politician age issue. Like someone omitting a main ingredient in a cake and thereby concluding that we need a new government bureaucracy to make sure no baker forgets an ingredient. Political age limits are nothing but “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. All of the questionable political age issues would be fully addressed within actual free and open elections. Instead of spewing a billion words and as many great new unnecessary government fixes, why not actually address the true source of all these issues? Election and ballot fraud have skyrocketed in America while candidates and officials are working overtime to permanently entrench corrupt election ballots and electronic’s into every election.

    Why not spend a billion words trying to address corrupt American politicians and elections? No, we have a better idea, let’s spend all our time addressing any other issue as long as it has nothing to do with election corruption…

    • Ballots and election counting are a red herring. How about the larger issue that mainly privately funded elections/campaigns cause politicians to be deeply politically beholden to PACs, rich donors, and big business including those with foreign ties. Average people do not have the ear of these politicians or judges. We have mail service and nothing else. Financial integrity and level paying field who bring a totally different set of candidates up. However, every bit of accountability that those like John McCain tried to bring forward have been clawed back by congress and lawsuits from those who don’t want to give up their shadow power. You see if from local all the way to the Supreme Court and it won’t stop until how we finance elections changes.

  17. After climbing the greasy pole to attain power, they relentlessly cling to it, afraid to ever again rejoin the ranks of the ordinary, powerless, and irrelevant little people.

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