My Congressional District is the 10th in Illinois. Up to now, it was known as the district for the tony north shore of Chicago where only a Republican has held court for years. With the latest incarnation of a redistricting map drawn up by Illinois' Democratic Legislature, the 10th now zigs and zags through a demographically and socio-economically diverse cross-section of northern Illinois that could assist a Democrat to become the district's first Democrat in who knows how long.
I went to a fundraiser recently for a candidate by the name of Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan, a bright, energetic young fellow whose lineage hails back to Russia from where his parents emigrated and commenced the "American story" by settling in the Chicago area and prospering from there. He graduated from a well-thought-of Chicago area high school followed by attendance at McGill University where he obtained his undergraduate degree. He went on to become a noted community activist (remember the roots of our president?) and is well known for his experience in progressive circles. I do not know him personally. Though there are four candidates running in our Democratic primary to be held on March 20, his main competition appears to come from a Mr. Brad Schneider, a 50 or so gentleman from Deerfield whom I have also yet to meet. Though each has slung some mud at the other, and both have been suitably endorsed, for purposes of this post, none of this matters. Neither does the fact that these two candidates are quite similar in their views on the issues. Strangely enough, what does objectively distinguish them is... age.
For you see, Mr. Sheyman is 25, and his principal opponent is using that reality to garner votes. In a recent mailer, the latter basically touts that without having a family of one's own, a marriage, and a job in the workforce for some time, one cannot be qualified to be a congressional representative. To this why, I would say, why not? After all, being 25 years of age still qualifies one to become a member of the House of Representatives. But the more that I thought about this age thing, the more the (well-worn) thought of turning a "lemon" into "lemonade" kept invading my thoughts.
To be clear, neither youth nor Sheyman are in any way lemons but I use the metaphor to express a point, as further explained in this post. That is, we all know that Congress is broken because it does not get anything done. Sure, we voters harp and harp and complain and complain about this, yet Congress does not get anything done for us; our words fall on deaf ears. Congress has become the most sour of any lemon. As Chicago's [the "original"] Mayor, Richard J. Daley, is claimed to have said, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But what Congress has morphed into is seriously broken, greatly challenged, and needs to be fixed -- immediately, like by the next election. Why not then do it with age -- after all, nothing else has worked? This is not to say that youth alone qualifies one to become a Congressional House member. But with passion, dedication and the best pedigree that life of 25 years can offer, why not? I've known folks in Sheyman's age bracket who can outdo others with twice or three times the age and experience on their bones. Surely, those who determined that 25 qualified a man or woman for the House must have known what they were talking about.
In all transparency, I cannot say touting youth to represent us in D.C. originates with me. I first heard it publicly advocated by Dr. Howard Dean, former Vermont governor, former chair of the DNC and currently a political pundit who supports the progressive movement. Dean spoke in support of Sheyman at the fundraiser I referred to atop this post. Governor Dean said that if Mr. Sheyman wins the primary and then beats the Republican who presently is our representative, he (Sheyman) would be the youngest member of Congress.
So using Sheyman as but in microcosm to what will fix Congress, his type age is as worthy, if not more so, a fix than anything else tried to date [short of voting out of office all the "bums" there now] to get members of Congress off their you-know-what to do what they were elected to do... undertake the business of the people.
Youth has incredible advantages, like not being bogged down with years of disgust, anger, and knowing first-hand that Congress is a monolithic dinosaur incapable of even tying its own shoelaces. Youth has fresh ideas, energy and a spirit unencumbered by any past that could be viewed as undesirable and that has not waned due to apathy and lethargy with the passage of years. Again, those who decided age 25 was acceptable for being a Congressional House member knew that youth still will be able to accomplish the people's business within the Beltway.
Howard Dean got it right on this score. Let's allow qualified youth running for Congress become our lemonade.