Thank You For Your Years Of Service, But It's Time For Elderly Political Leaders In Both Parties To Retire

Mitch McConnell is only part of the problem of our government being in the hands of octogenarians. Enough is enough.

mitch mcconnell, dianne feinstein, joe biden, donald trump over american flag Gints Ivuskans, Christopher Halloran, Evan El-Amin via Shutterstock / Office of Senator Bill Cassidy via Wikimedia Commons

If you've been anywhere near a TV or social media recently, you've likely seen that seven-term Republican Senator Mitch McConnell just had what appeared to be his second 'freezing' episode on live television in a matter of weeks.

That situation is concerning enough, but it's just one of several currently plaguing the US's dangerously elderly government. And it's past time for something to change. 


It's time we seriously consider an age limit for politicians.

Love him or hate him, Mitch McConnell is among the most powerful people in Washington — it's part of what has made him so successful at politics (even if for all the wrong reasons, depending on your sensibilities).

But recent events signal that it is long past time for that tenure to end. For the second time in two months, McConnell once again froze mid-sentence at an August 30, 2023 press conference, staring blankly into the middle distance while seemingly unresponsive for a shockingly long and unnerving amount of time as he previously did on July 27.


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As with the prior incident, it's not known what exactly went down with Mitch McConnell during the press conference, which was, ironically, about whether or not he'll run for an eighth Senate term in 2026. But it has people confronting a very real question — will McConnell even make it to 2026 to run again in the first place? 

McConnell is literally the most powerful person in the US Senate and as Senate Majority Leader, he is tasked with leading the legislative process in our country. So it's, um, kind of a big deal? That such an important leader keeps having what appears to be mini-strokes or seizures in the middle of press conferences?


These come after McConnell has reportedly suffered a number of falls in the past year, one of which left him with a concussion — an extremely dangerous condition for someone of his age. Many believe that fall and concussion may be the cause of whatever keeps happening to him in press conferences.

I don't mean to be crass, but we simply cannot avoid asking the obvious question — why is our government in the hands of a person like this? Why are 70- and 80-somethings who are in manifestly fragile health — who, let's just be candid here, really seem like they're on the verge of shuffling off this mortal coil — in charge of running our country. What the heck are we doing?! 

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Politicians who are too old to handle the full scope of their job are a problem in both parties.

For a Democratic counterpart of McConnell, you need look no further than California Senator Dianne Feinstein, currently in her sixth term despite appearing to be significantly incapacitated by recent battles with shingles and encephalitis, a swelling of the brain that can cause memory or language problems, sleep disorders, confusion, mood disorders, headaches and difficulty walking.


Recent incidents suggest that Feinstein has lost some touch with reality since her health troubles. After finally returning to Congress after a months-long absence, Feinstein indignantly insisted to a reporter that "I've been here" and "I haven't been gone" from the Senate when questioned about her time away from Washington.

And in July, Feinstein had to be instructed what to even say during a Senate vote — a hot mic caught someone telling her "just say aye" repeatedly after she appeared to need to be coached through a task she has done hundreds of times over the course of her long career.



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Her health has deteriorated so badly, in fact, that Feinstein's daughter has power of attorney over her life. She apparently cannot manage her own day-to-day tasks, yet she's part of the team in charge of running the country at a time when we are beset by multifaceted crises? 

Then there's Feinstein's colleague from Iowa, 89-year-old Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who seems to be in fine health but has become something of a Twitter superstar for his often bizarre and confused tweets.

Which is a pretty perfect microcosm of the wider problem — these people are so elderly they barely understand the basics of modern life nowadays. You need look no further than the farcical Congressional hearings with leaders of companies like Facebook, Google and TikTok, in which they were asked questions by elderly Congress members that made it obvious they don't remotely understand the internet itself, let alone how it interacts with our lives and economy. 




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Fifteen members of the House of Representatives, as well as the President, are over the age of 80.

The problem extends far beyond the Senate. The House of Representatives has a whopping 15 octogenarian members, including the top-ranking Democrat, 83-year-old Nancy Pelosi and other high-ranking members like California Democrat Maxine Waters, 84 and South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn, 83.

And then, of course, there's the President. I'll be candid — despite my left-side politics I'm no fan of Joe Biden's, but I feel the constant mockery and uproar over his supposed senility and incompetence is overblown and baseless and seems always to center on malapropisms that are the result of his lifelong stutter. But sharp as he may be, he's also 80 years old — and if he wins in 2024, he'll be 85 by the time he leaves office. It is not unreasonable to wonder if he'll even live that long. 




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Many feel that saying it's time for elderly politicians to retire is ageist, but that is ridiculous. 

Let me explain it this way: I have a bad shoulder. I've gotten treatment and do stretches and exercises every morning to make sure I'm in good working order, but at the end of the day, I can't safely lift a heavy object above shoulder level without the possibility of injuring myself.  So let me ask you this — if you have a vitally important job you need done that requires me to lift heavy things over shoulder level, are you gonna hire me for that job now that I've told you about my physical limitation? Are you gonna ask me to be a pallbearer at your loving mother's funeral knowing that my shoulder could go out and I'll end up dropping her coffin halfway up the church steps? Of course not!


It is not ageist to say it's absurd for a man who keeps having some sort of neurological issue on-camera to be in charge of the Senate. It is not ableist to say that a woman who seems to sometimes not know where she is shouldn't be in a high position in a municipal government, let alone a national one.

And it is not bigoted to say that old people who don't even understand how the internet works should not be in charge of a modern economy. This is common sense. These are simple facts. It is not ageist, ableist or any other kind of "-ist." It is simply the way it is.

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An elderly gerontocracy has collapsed other countries before us, and we're poised to be next if we don't change.

Historians, political scientists and other experts consider a gerontocracy — government by the elderly — to be a sign of imminent collapse. In fact, gerontocracy is considered one of the major factors that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, opening the door for the eventual takeover of Vladimir Putin as the Russian President. Historians say the United States urgently needs to learn from that prior example. 

We are beset by multifaceted problems steadily snowballing downhill into calamities, from the collapse of our climate to the dilapidation of our economy to the lack of security and privacy inherent to the technology that now rules every single aspect of our lives. And the people running things have no incentive to fix any of it. The system has made them rich beyond their wildest dreams, and they won't even be here when the proverbial excrement hits the proverbial fan. 

But even if they were to last that long, they don't even understand half of what's going on. They have to be explained what a "finsta" is while interviewing the leadership of Facebook on the floor of Congress, for God's sake.


This is absurd. It's embarrassing. It's unethical and it's immoral. But more than anything, it's dangerous.

Thank you all for your service, ladies and gentlemen, but it's time to go. Retire. Now. You've done enough. And we can't clean up the mess you've made until you get out of the way.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.