Too Old To Serve
One of the things I hate most about the American political system is all the old farts sitting up in Washington, D.C. dictating how the rest of us are to interact. Luckily we have put a term limit on the executive branch that keeps the damage done by any single President to a few years. But we have people serving as legislators that should have retired decades ago.
Prime example is the former presidential candidate Senator John McCain who just fought off an assault by his closest opponent, J.D. Hayworth, to win the Republican primary contest of the great state of Arizona. That man was going through puberty when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. And now, he wants to be reelected to the Senate so he can go back to Washington and help shape laws designed to take us into further into the twenty first century. This is one of the many people who are going to participate in the shaping of laws designed around concepts of technology and business that is designed to compete in a global economy.
And the Supreme Court is seriously out of touch with the rest of America. Back in June, before Justice Paul Stevens retired, the average age of the high court justices is nearly sixty nine, a number north of the retirement age for most Americans. With his replacement, the brand new Justice Elena Kagan who is four decades Mr. Stevens junior, that number drops to a slightly more reasonable sixty four. The majority of these justices are old fogies interpreting laws made by the legislative branch with old their old fogies with the understanding of the world as they learned things back when movies were silent.
Are laws intended to outlaw sexting constitutional? A justice is likely to ask what’s sexting? It’s when you send a sexually explicit text message to a mobile phone. What’s a text message? A text message is something written on a mobile phone. How do you write a message on a mobile phone? Does it require a pen? No, you don’t really write on the phone. The phone has a little keyboard. How big is this mobile phone? The keyboard is small. It folds into the phone. So how does the mobile phone send the message? So how does the mobile phone with a folded keyboard send a message to another mobile phone? It can be like talking to a four year old.
Some of the people serving the country in these high offices have been doing so for more than a generation. For the folks in the Supreme Court, it’s understood that it’s an appointment for life. But for legislators, the people will vote on whether or not it’s time for something new. And unfortunately, some people keep voting these old coots back in, year after year, because of some twisted form of nostalgia or because the incumbent enjoys name recognition because most of the voters in some district are too intellectually lazy to trouble themselves to find out what the issues are. So somehow the oldies keep getting back in to do what ever it is they do and then we wonder why things don’t progress for the entire public’s benefit like they should.
It’s a shame, but if it wasn’t for death people like Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy and Senator Robert Byrd would still be serving this day. It’s nothing to see people running our government well into their eighties and beyond. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t trust any of these oldies behind the steering wheel of my car, let alone running the country. True, they may have done some wonderful things in the past. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll keep that track record. At some point, new blood needs to get in there.
And here lies the problem. The old farts aren’t doing much to prepare the next generation to run the country. While some of us might think that somebody like Charlie Rangel going back to Washington to represent his district over a forty year time span is a good thing, is he really good for his district or for the country. Many of our legislators become so comfortable in their elected position that they become sloppy in their service to their constituents. So many of these people are working so hard to stay in power that they lose sight of what they are there for, which is to serve the entire country as a representative of the people that elected them.
It’s about time we put term limits on our legislators and our justices. People shouldn’t be running this country from their death bed. The old and infirm, people who remember their personal experiences as a child with horse drawn carriages with a special fondness, might not be the best people to guide us into the future. Maybe we ought to think about term limits across all branches of our government and not just on the President.