top of page

Is Ageism Real in Politics? by Jesse Lopez

Ageism - defined as prejudice or discrimination against an individual or group of people based on their age. In this 2020 presidential election, we kept hearing the media and tabloids bring up the age of the Democratic nominee, now President-elect, Joe Biden, who will be 78 when he takes office, and the Republican nominee Donald Trump (74). But no one seemed to bring up that in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, who is 78 years of age, was running against Amy McGrath, a 45-year-old. That's a 34-year age difference, just a few years shy of my current lifespan. Or that Lindsay Graham (65) was running against Jamie Harrison (44) in South Carolina, a 21-year age difference. Or that Mitch McConnell took office in the US Senate when I was one year old and I am a 37-year-old man. When I was nine, Lindsay Graham joined his friends in Washington, that's 27 years.

For god's sake, Chuck Grassley (who just tested positive for Covid-19), Senator of Iowa, is 87. These older adults in Washington are not just a Republican thing. Congresswoman Dianne Feinstein is 87, Maxine Waters is 82, and Nancy Pelosi is 80. Look, my mom is 60, and she can barely operate a cellphone or her Smart TV. Most of us are frightened at the thought of being driven around by our grandparents and do our best to make sure they don't hurt themselves while doing trivial tasks. The majority of people I know over 80 currently live in an assisted living facility or with family caring for them. Why do we freak out when our grandparents use a new home appliance, praying they don't hurt themselves, yet we run at the opportunity to vote and elect people the same age as the people we wouldn't trust with our TV remotes or driving our children around?

It's because ageism is real, but we are all just misinterpreting it. Think about "family" for a second. Those of us who associate with their family, or come from a tight-knit family, tend to listen to and respect our elders. When we look at these older elected representatives, we see our grandparents in them. When we have a problem in our life, we look to older people for help, knowing they might understand what we are going through based on their wisdom learned from life's lessons. As children, we saw our parents solve problems, but if they couldn't solve the problem themselves, we witnessed them rely on their parents. That hierarchy became embedded in our society and the reason we look to these older politicians assuming they have answers to questions that are out of their age bracket or mental capabilities.

In politics, ageists discriminate against young people. Why? Because no one taught us to ask our children or anyone their age for help. Telling an older adult that they are too old for a job is no different than telling a young person they don't have the experience needed for a job, which millions of US citizens and me have heard at one point or another.

"Young punk" is a term we can all say we have heard at least once in our lives. This term is subliminal messaging. Most American adults would seldomly ask for help from someone younger than them. Parents bottle up financial worries from their kids and hide embarrassment from failure. We segregate our adult problems from our children and younger siblings.

TV shows like "Kid's Say the Darndest Things" show us we can all learn a lot from our youth. As a parent myself, I have to admit my children and the younger people in my life have taught me a lot. From dance moves to modern slang, younger people have kept me updated on current events, the internet, and technology.

Why do we plug our ears when someone society considers young speaks up and stands up for our democracy, owning their right to run for office as a political figure? Because we have been brainwashed not to listen to younger people while told older people are somehow wiser. The same older people that have repetitively failed our country. We don't give young people a chance because our society believes they are too young or too inexperienced. We don't see them as a blank slate, someone free from learned bad behaviors like we should.

We've all heard you can't teach an old dog new tricks, so why do we keep electing old dogs? Democracy works best when we have representatives from all walks of life, creating legislation that benefits all of society and not just one group of people. We can learn a lot from the group that most densely populates this planet. Young people are our future, so maybe it's time we listen to them and give them a chance to sit at the grown-up table.

131 views1 comment
bottom of page