Opinion | Politics is too old

The world our leaders grew up in is gone, and many do not know how present issues work.


Ayrton Breckenridge

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) speaks to a crowd on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021 at Ashley Hinson’s BBQ Bash at Linn County Fairgrounds. Grassley acknowledged the work that Hinson has done.

Peyton Downing, Opinions Columnist

With the announcement of Sen. Joe Bolkcom and Rep. Mary Mascher not seeking reelection in 2022, this is an excellent time to talk about a major issue in politics: older politicians who don’t understand today’s world.

Bolkcom and Mascher both talked about how with their retirements, they hope that young, new people step in to fill their seats.

However, these two seats are only in the Iowa House and Senate. We face a much greater issue with aging politicians at the national stage.

The age of Congress is not representative of the country at large: More than half of the U.S. Senate is over 65. The average age of senators is 63.9, and the average age for a house member is 58.3. The median age of all Americans, on the other hand, is 38.4. 

To be clear, age is not a signifier of a person’s value, and I don’t say this out of an aversion to older people. Many of the longest-serving politicians are more than capable, and it makes sense for leadership and some members of the upper echelons of federal policy to be older. But the lack of representation of younger Americans on the national stage is absurd.

My concern is how, often, older members of our federal legislatures don’t seem to understand some modern issues facing our country.

In a recent senatorial hearing regarding Facebook, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked Facebook’s global head of safety Antigone Davis if they will “commit to ending finsta.”  

To those of you who are not in the know, “finstas” are private Instagram accounts you keep under wraps and only share with close friends to show stuff you don’t want potential employers or family members to see.  

This is just a type of account people can make that will exist so long as you do not need photo identification to make accounts, and you are restricted to one account for your entire life.

This concept clearly did not reach Blumenthal, who still took several minutes afterward to grill Davis about finstas.

There is a legitimate issue with Facebook and other social media platforms and their capacity to do harm to people. We saw this in the recent whistleblower leaks which shows that Facebook and Instagram will give one out of three young women on the platform body issues.

But when the people we trust to write legislation and sit on these committees do not understand how these things function, there is no hope for any policy to be written that will lead to substantive change for the better.

There’s also a matter of the disconnect when it comes to the material reality Americans are living in. The matter of a living wage.

In a recent speech, President Joe Biden talked about attempting to bring back union jobs and how 12 and 15 dollars an hour isn’t enough to raise a family. Yet, it was largely older Democrats that killed the bill to raise the minimum wage to that, even though the average age of people on minimum wage is 36. 

And none of this is to say the Republicans are any better on this issue. They have their own share of representatives with outdated ideas. The 2020 election platform still maintained the desire to reverse the legalization of same-sex marriage, despite the vast majority of Americans approving it.

We need to encourage and empower younger minds to reach into politics not only to save us from incompetence but from outdated politics that don’t belong in the 21st century. 

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.