My smarty-pants brother recently wrote at Salon that the average age of members of the United States Senate is rising, not so much because Senators hang around getting re-elected forever more than they used to, but because newly-elected Senators are older now than used to be the case. In additional commentary at his blog he ponders why this may be, but has no strong answer.
To which I say what I always say about everything in American society: it's the Baby Boomers who have taken over everything and won't let go -- and us Gen-Xers who have long since accepted that and no longer try to get anything.
This is obviously a vast, gross oversimplification for why people come to run for high office and how voters come to choose among those candidates. But it's true.
Jon notes that two surprise recent primary winners, now likely to win Senate seats, were both born in 1951. Pure Boomers. He says that the 10 new Senators in 2006 had an average age of 54, and in 2008 was 56. This means they were all born around 1952; pure Boomers. He goes on to list a whole bunch of major candidates this year, who will all between the age of 59 and 67 in January 2013 -- hey, that means they were born between 1945 and 1953. What generation would that be do you suppose?
And look, it wasn't always that way. The big Senate class elected in November 1994 were, on average, a little under 49 years old. That would put their average year of birth in, let's see... oh, look at that, 1946, the beginning of the Baby Boom.
Baby Boomers have run everything, so they have been the ones in positions of success to run for US Senate; and they are the biggest batch of people, so they get to decide who to elect -- which is Boomers like themselves, because Boomers are so great.
And who would be the younger candidates who would challenge this? Gen-Xers. And I'm very sorry, but we've been way too busy for the past 30 years or so buying and re-buying our favorite music, movies, and video games on new technologies and platforms to have time for all this "voting" nonsense -- let alone running for office.
But not to worry! The minimum age for joining the US Senate is 30. The eager-beaver get-up-and-go Millennial Generation is generally considered to have begun with those born in 1981. That makes this the first Millennial-eligible Senate election; of course, only the first cusp of them make the cut yet, and as a generation they don't yet vote in numbers to challenge the Boomers, so we won't start to see the effects very soon.
But we will. As the Boomers eventually give way in the coming years, it will be these Millennials taking their place -- not us Gen-Xers. So that will start to radically change the age demographics of the Senate -- as it is already changing the demographics of the US House, where the Millennials have already started to arrive (and the Gen-Xers have barely made a mark).
It's the Boomers. It's always the Boomers.