The 110th Congress, when it convenes on January 4th, will be the OLDEST in our nation's history. Maybe we should be calling our government what it has literally become: a veritable GERONTOCRACY.
The average age of both houses combined will be 57 years old--that's a historic all-time high (beating the 109th Congress's record of 56 years old).
The Senate will be the oldest ever. The average age will be 62 years old. The former record, also set by the 109th Congress, was 60.4 years old.
There will be 5 octogenarians among that senior bunch, with Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia leading the pack at 89 years old. There will be 20 septuagenarians. Count 59 members as being 60 years old or above. The youngest senator, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, will be 43 years old--and he'll turn 44 on January 10, 2007.
The House will be the oldest ever. The average age will be 56 years old, beating the 109th's record average of 55 years old. There will be 4 octogenarians, 25 septuagenarians, and 149 members altogether age 60 years or above. The youngest member, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, will be 31 years old. Only 7 members of the House will be under 35 years old at the start of the session (the 109th Congress had 10 such members).
What does this mean? Surely a number of factors contribute to the graying of Congress: the graying of the voting public overall (life expectancy in the U.S., btw, has doubled since the founders designed the Constitution); the ever-increasing need for campaign money; the increased advantages of incumbency. Yet these numbers and trends should also raise obvious questions about whether such an elderly body can claim to be adequately representing--both procedurally and substantively--the interests of younger American citizens.
Check out this dire statistic: 78% of all U.S. troop casualties in the Iraq War have been incurred by young Americans 18 to 30 years old. Yet for both this incoming and the outgoing Congress: there's been no Senator under 41, no House member under 30.
Sure seems as if the Phil Ochs' song line from 1965 still pertains: "It's always the old to lead us to the war/It's always the young to fall." Can we honestly say that those dead U.S. soldiers in the streets of Iraq had adequate representation in the halls of Congress? Can we honestly say that a Congress that funds this war through deficit spending, shifting the mounting debt onto and into the future, is adequately representing the interests of our younger generations?
Don't be surprised when our younger citizens become cynical and disengaged from the U.S. representative system. Don't necessarily reproach them for their electoral "apathy." Maybe they better realize that the representative system is stacked against them. Urban Outfitters printed a t-shirt during the last presidential campaign that rang too true: "Voting Is for Old People."
I've written an entire book about this problem (not yet published), tentatively titled: Jesus for President: The Case for a Constitutional Amendment to Lower the Age Requirements for Elected Federal Office. Let me know if you're interested in hearing more about this topic (or tell someone younger about it)--your support might help get the book published sooner.
Presidential candidates for 2008: Contact me if you want to provide leadership (no matter what your age) to help galvanize a new youth movement.