The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Current politicians don’t represent most Americans

3 min read

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the second youngest member of the House of Representatives. | J. Scott Applewhite for AP News

By CALEB PICARD

Staff Writer

The American political sphere has become staggeringly disconnected with the American people. Forty-five of the 100 members of the US Senate are at or above the age of retirement. Likewise, 126 members of the House of Representatives are eligible for retirement, with the oldest being 87 years old. In addition to age, the lived experiences of modern politicians are staggeringly at odds with those of everyday Americans.Today, the country needs radical change and the only way to achieve that is for young people outside of the political elite to enter government.

Much of the legislation needed within American politics has little to no relation to the way the world existed 20 years ago, much less during 1973 when House of Representatives member Don Young was first elected. Political power has become more and more centralized in a generation at a disconnect from the people of the United States.

This is not only visible within the legislative branch but also in our presidency. Looking at the birthdates of presidential candidates, Donald Trump was born in 1946, Hillary Clinton follows the year after being born in 1947, Bernie Sanders was born in 1941 and Joe Biden was born in 1942. This trend has become the norm, with almost every major leader within government being above retirement age within America.

If we compare these ages to some ages of founding fathers, it is night and day. Most of the founding fathers were around their 30s during the Revolutionary War. This country was built upon the progressive thoughts of youth, yet today there is little to no connection between people and their governing bodies.

A perfect example of the modern generation needed in the political sphere can be seen in Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As the second youngest member out of the 425 voting representatives, AOC has life experience relatable to much of the current generation. She worked as a server and bartender before she was elected the youngest woman to ever be a part of the House of Representatives.

We see that the younger generation of leadership understands the issues that are prevalent in today’s America such as Medicare for all, as well as the need for student loan forgiveness. This is a need since in comparing the cost of college in the 1970s to today; there has been a 3000 percent increase in cost according to the National Center for Education.

In addition to this, incumbent leadership is even more removed from society because they enjoy a prepaid medical plan as well as a salary of $178,000 a year. This number comes in addition to perks and benefits such as $40,000 provided for “office furnishings” according to the Congressional salaries document. That alone is more than the poverty line for a family of four. This also comes with a flurry of tax deductions as well as being able to gain ridiculous amounts of income through “outside donors,” allowing for corporations to have a say in the political sphere.

The standard of living for political leadership has little to no relation to that of the “average Joe.” While people froze to death in their homes in Texas, their Senator Ted Cruz was able to take a trip to Mexico followed by a second trip to Florida. While governing bodies can take months before putting out a stimulus relief, people are being kicked out of their housing and out of work. There has never been as big of a gap between the super-wealthy and the working class. The poverty line sits at 26,500 for a family of four while senators’ salaries sit at about seven times that.

Leadership needs to be built through ordinary individuals, people who know what it’s like to work ungodly hours making $7.25 just to make ends meet. If we continue to allow for the political sphere of influence to be dictated by retirees and the ultra-wealthy there will be no future for the American public. 

“The American Dream” was once that anyone could come, pull themselves up through hard work and perseverance and achieve anything. More and more it has become obvious that America is not the place it was advertised to be. 

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