As the 2020 election nears, the question remains whether or not the voices of previous politicians should hold as much weight as the politicians of our generation
All good things must come to an end, and it seems as if the voices of certain politicians in our nation are not as important to the American people as they once were. We all know the names: Hilary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama — politicians who have faithfully served our nation for years, that we all have a variety of opinions about.
If a politician no longer holds an active political office, should they be able to heavily weigh in on current political matters? What about older politicians, should we look to replace the voices that have been speaking for years, if not decades? Does their experience still hold weight amongst the American people? There are benefits and disadvantages to both sides of the argument.
As a younger generation rises to take the place of another, it seems that the separation of interests between our aging politicians and the American people is ever-growing. The issues of today’s day and age are complex and highly specific to the technological age we are living in, and are largely misunderstood by the older generation which governs us.
Although the statement may sound quite “millennial” to say, it rings true amongst those who see our government as increasingly detached from the American people. This is due to a multitude of reasons, one of which is the median age of the majority of American politicians. In 2017, John McCain quickly had to recuperate from surgery and a brain cancer diagnosis at 80 years old to cast a vote (at 1 a.m.) which greatly assisted in Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. This is just one example of the ways in which the aging of our politicians can impact our nation.
In a Vox article, Harold Pollack writes, “The highest levels of American politics bear an uncomfortable resemblance to a gerontocracy.” (Meaning a society where leadership is reserved for elders) Top political positions are often held by men and women aged 70 or above. This results in a disconnect which deters the youth of our nation from participating in politics — whether this means running for office, or simply voting.
According to NPR, “millennials continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group,” seeing as “only 46 percent voted in the last presidential election.”
Regardless, the rebuttal to this argument still holds true: older politicians naturally have a larger skillset and therefore more knowledge of our government and its inner workings. It is difficult to put a price on years of experience, but it seems that if we do not begin ushering in a new era of politicians soon, we may struggle to find replacements for the top leaders of our nation.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most recent “youthful” political star to enter the scene. It is difficult to say exactly what spurred Cortez to such instant popularity with the people of her district, but one thing is clear: her youthful excitement and passion for the American people won over more hearts than years of experience ever could. With a “grassroots” approach to campaigning, Cortez was able to beat one of the senior House leaders, Joseph Crowley, in what the New York Times referred to as a “near landslide” win.
The American people are looking for someone to believe in, relate to, and support without feeling as if they are being lied to or manipulated — a common symptom of the political climate in America today. The growing distrust of our government, which I discussed in a previous article, can be remedied by new and honest voices breaking onto the scene.
Although the years of experience offered by politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton are highly valuable, the American people desire to be understood by people who truly represent and speak for them. We want to relate to our leaders. Although we should listen to the voices of our most well known politicians for their expertise on complex issues, such as healthcare and foreign policy, we need to make room for new voices to emerge onto the scene— therefore ensuring that all Americans feel represented and spoken for.