Liz Cheney's Age Shouldn't Be a Factor in Her Race Against Mike Enzi

69-year old Senator Mike Enzi defends his age against those who are saying that challenger Liz Cheney "would offer a younger, fresher face for conservatives," claiming that he's "the median age" for a person in his position and that his seniority indicates his trustworthiness in the eyes of constituents.

While he is currently not at the median age for a senator (he's the 25th oldest out of 100 senators), there have been some rather old lawmakers in our nation's history. Former Senator Strom Thurmond was 100 years old when he ended his career, Robert Byrd was 93, and currently-serving Representative John Dingell of Colorado is 87. Considering these examples, Enzi doesn't seem so old. But, should there be an age limit for federally elected officials?

The Constitution does specify an age minimum — 30 for senator, 25 for representative. This is literally age discrimination because it assumes that people under a certain age aren't prepared for a federally elected office. It's unfair for people to be excluded from political opportunities due to their age. Ageism is a real thing, and while our culture considers it more acceptable than other forms of discrimination like racism or sexism, it's still marginalizing. Furthermore, this age requirement carries along with it other forms of discrimination once we examine why our constitution considers people under a certain age unsuitable for federal office.

One argument for the age requirement is that young people are not psychologically or emotionally mature enough for such responsibilities — our culture largely assumes young people are too brash, unstable, selfish, or ignorant. The ironic thing is that many federally elected politicians have showcased these qualities; former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country, former vice president Dan Quayle couldn't spell the word "potato", and former president George W. Bush is notorious for making up words and saying ridiculous things. To be sure, this age restriction has done nothing in the realm of ensuring better-educated or mature politicians. This and other underlying biases that go along with the age minimum are inherently misguided and unfounded.

In the same vein, all arguments that support the notion that there ought to be an age limit for federally elected officials are unfounded and even harmful. As long as they are deemed fit to perform their duties, a person shouldn't be denied office for being too old or too young. Comments that Liz Cheney might be more suitable as senator because of her image are just as demeaning as hypothetical comments regarding Enzi as more suitable because he is a man. 

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Arthur Stern

I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy and a certificate in Women's Studies. I love language, culture, and the capacity people have for growth and progress.

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