Updated: Sep 11
On August 30, 2023, for the second time in less than a month, an 81-year-old man, who had recently suffered a fall that resulted in an injured rib and a concussion, stopped mid-speech, frozen for 30 seconds, visibly unable to speak in what would later be classified as a health emergency, while those around him watched with helpless concern.
While this story is concerning, it is not altogether surprising that an octogenarian would suffer multiple episodes of cognitive impairment . If this were your neighbor, upon hearing he received the needed care, most of us would breathe a sigh of relief, content that his responsibilities lay at the river's edge of enjoying a sunny day amidst his well-earned retirement.
But what if this particular octogenarian was responsible for representing the needs of over 3/4 million people while serving on four federal committees, as well as leading minority caucus activities and senate debates for the most powerful nation in the world?
Now that would be concerning, wouldn't it?
It is also the primary reason Mitch McConnell, minority senate leader and the octogenarian in question, was recently booed and heckled with chants of, "Shame on you", "Ditch Mitch" and "Retire!" by an angry crowd at an annual Kentukian Fancy Farm Picnic.
Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, and James Clyburn are giants among us. If any of us accomplished a quarter of what they have collectively accomplished for the American people, we would be living an exemplary life of service.
While I respect their sacrifice, experience, and wisdom gained through a lifetime of service. I also fervently believe there is a time when that service must come to an end.
It is time for the ideals of those who will live with the consequences of our choices to shape our democracy.
It is time to PASS THE BATON. It's time for fresh blood and new perspectives. Longstanding leaders with old grudges paralyze congressional movement.
I do not believe these seasoned elder statesmen should be “put out to pasture”. There are other ways to support programs and policies they care about that are not in elected leadership positions. It is possible to retire with dignity and continue to do meaningful work that moves this country forward.
In 2013 President Barack Obama invited Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to lunch at the Whitehouse. He did so because he understood the looming threat on the horizon. Democrats were poised to lose the midterms, and that loss would make it extremely difficult to seat justices that championed democratic values on the Supreme Court.
“Mr. Obama had asked his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, to set up the lunch so he could build a closer rapport with the justice, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Treading cautiously, he did not directly bring up the subject of retirement to Justice Ginsburg, at 80 the Supreme Court’s oldest member and a two-time cancer patient.
He did, however, raise the looming 2014 midterm elections and how Democrats might lose control of the Senate. Implicit in that conversation was the concern motivating his lunch invitation — the possibility that if the Senate flipped, he would lose a chance to appoint a younger, liberal judge who could hold on to the seat for decades.”
The retirement of Justice Bader Ginsburg would have allowed the president to pass the baton to someone of like mind, someone who would continue RBG’s legacy of valor and empathy for those whom justice had overlooked.
But that’s not what happened…..
In 2013, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an octogenarian. She was 15 years past the legal retirement age for someone born in 1933. She was 2 years older than the life expectancy of the average American, and her health was declining. Instead of graciously stepping aside to ensure the rights she fought long and hard for would-be protected by an able like-minded successor, she chose to remain.
I appreciate the difference "RBG" made in the lives of women and marginalized communities. History will look honorably on her years of service. But in this, her final decision, she failed the basic requirement of good leadership. To put the needs of those you serve above your own.
Unfortunately, she is not alone. Nearly 30% of United States Congress members are over 70 years of age. This year Diane Feinstein and Charles Grassley will be 90 years old, with no indication of retiring. WHAT ARE WE DOING AMERICA?
Half of the country is 38 years of age or younger, but only 5% of Congress represents that demographic. This “Golden Era of Geriatric Rule”, as Professor Scott Galloway calls it, is quickly becoming a tool of our demise. The heightened partisanship based on decades-long grievances and stale traditions is crippling our democracy and stalling much-needed bills like the Background Check Expansion Act, the Green New Deal, and the Big Oil Profiteers Act.
It is time for Gen X and Gen Y to lead! The majority of American voters age 50 and under agree on issues like gun control, climate change, and immigration reform. It is time for the ideals of those who will live with the consequences of our choices to shape our democracy.
Unfortunately, instead of longstanding members making things easier based on relationships gained over time, they’ve calcified Congress. We are policy constipated and experiencing one of the most ineffective, partisan body of elected leaders in the history of our nation.
I know what you’re thinking, “What about Biden?” Joe promised voters one term. It was one of the many reasons I voted for him. He kept every promise except that one, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty peeved about it. He should have groomed someone to take his place in 2024.
Now we are left with a strange and horrible choice: Continue with our current antediluvian leadership, or vote for a party mired in affection for a demagogue who conspired to rob the people of their voice.
I will sigh deeply and again choose Joe.
Look, don't get me wrong, I love "Auntie Maxine" too but I wonder when these octogenarians finally allow FRESH VOICES to speak, how will we ever RECLAIM THE TIME they plundered?