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Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: No Congress for old men

If you think the quiet mini-movement to require very elderly politicians in Congress to pass a cognitive test isn’t such a bad idea, you’re not alone.

It’s not age discrimination. It’s common sense.

While the super nice version of me (admittedly a too-thin slice on the ol’ pie chart) wants to be impressed that 88-year-old Chuck Grassley of Iowa plans to run for re-election to his Senate seat next year (making him 94 at the end of that term if successful), the rest of the pie chart thinks that’s just loony.

Before you send me a million videos of Grassley on his famous early-morning runs, I admit his fitness regimen is impressive. When I’m Grassley’s age the only exercise I plan is waving my cane to whatever’s on the highest shelf at the grocery store until a young person comes along to help me. And then I’ll scream “YOU GOT THE WRONG ONE!” just because I can. Hey, why do you think they call it a “rascal”?

Besides, everybody needs something to look forward to.

Just because someone can jog doesn’t mean they should remain in Congress. I can make a pound cake. Doesn’t mean somebody should give me a Michelin star. Or even a Michelin tire.

The first time I noticed how old Congress was getting was back in 2018 when I watched the halting, awkward interrogations of tech whipper snappers on social media issues.

One elderly questioner brightened at the mention of “cookies” for example. Down boy. Not that kind of cookie.

There was back and forth between tech types and older members of Congress whose jaws dropped when told Facebook makes money from advertisers on its site. It was clearly baffling that anyone would buy an ad on a computer instead of, say, a series of clever signs placed along the shoulder of the road advertising a certain shaving cream. (Ask your grandparents.)

One older senator whose name rhymes with Windsey Shayham took the opportunity to brag about having a flip phone. Which, to be fair, is way more hip than what I pictured him using…a Mayberry era two-piece phone like Andy used, saying: “Sara, get me Helen Crump!”

I don’t fault one 74-year-old congressman who threw his hands up during recent testimony explaining crypto currency pronouncing “They’re just creating money out of nowhere!” I fully expected him to launch into a Thanksgiving dinner worthy rant about how back in his day people sold actual products you could hold in your hand, and then you paid for these actual products with real money! All y’all say “Consarnit!”

Perhaps trying to sound more youthful, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, always quick with an incoherent barb, told Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: “Your user agreement SUCKS!”

Oh, trust me Senator McFolksey, using young people’s expressions just makes you seem older. It’s why I finally stopped pronouncing something I liked as “dope” or describing a party I attended as “lit.” It just sounds pathetic when said by someone who is “Figurines and Tab for lunch everyday” old.

The wretched truth is, it’s time to give the kids a shot. Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. Senate is over 70 which Time magazine’s Charlotte Alter termed a “reigning gerontocracy.” Ouch, but spot on.

I feel bad for younger officeholders whose voices are ignored on the issues they are passionate about like paid family leave, climate change and tuition-free college. Although young voters turned out in record numbers in the last election, it would be understandable if they got discouraged and sat the next one out.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, perhaps in the spirit of Thanksgiving, envisioning gangly 20 somethings still stuck at the kids’ table, just announced he won’t run for re-election. Seems fair. He has been in the Senate for FORTY-SIX YEARS. See ya in the canned goods aisle, Senator.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].

 

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