Illustration by: Emily Lai

In our current chaotic world, we need changes to the fundamental political system instilled in our society. When senior candidates are elected into powerful political positions, they lack the incentives to push for radical reform under the current complex. Politicians control our lives and our society; they determine how we deal with crises and help less privileged individuals. We should hold our politicians to the highest standard for both ourselves and for society as a whole. If old politicians are not able to bring about the necessary changes to help society progress, they shouldn’t be in office.

Elderly politicians are typically those who are the most privileged in our society as, in the era they grew up in, they were disproportionately advantaged due to their gender, sexuality, race, etc. When people grow up in such a manner in which they believe their privilege is deserved, due to the beliefs they hold from their past unevolved society, they’re likely to try to maintain their positions of power merely because they believe they’re the most superior candidates. For example, urban schools provide lower quality education to Black and Latino students, and the media focuses exclusively on Black citizens with regard to crime and ridicule. These problems were far less contested in the past [1]. This problem primarily exists due to politicians who have grown up in an era where they were privileged on the basis of their race, gender, or other uncontrollable factors, where awareness about detrimental deep-rooted values weren’t addressed. When people like these are attracted to political positions to maintain their power because they believe they rightfully deserve it, they don’t have the actual incentives to prompt change that one without these privileged beliefs would have implemented. Their primary motivation while in power is to maintain their position, to retain the superiority they’ve long had and have grown accustomed to. On the other hand, those that did not grow up in this era are more than likely to enter into these positions for the sake of initiating legitimate change to address what they see wrong with society, because awareness was brought to issues relating to privilege, and hence this wouldn’t interfere with their political motivations.

When politicians lack the incentive to introduce long-term radical reform, no change is brought to the table. Old politicians in power hold a great deal of influence in terms of what a country gets in comparison to what it needs. Because they often do not live to witness the grand consequences of their policies play out, politicians have less of an incentive to make meaningful change that would positively affect society in a way that is not just performative action or creating attractive policies to the public. Take climate change policies for example: Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord in 2017 and decided to instead negotiate for “terms that are better for American businesses and taxpayers” [2]. Considering how powerful of a country the U.S. is, this was a significant setback in the fight against climate change not only in the United States, but all around the world. Additionally, because these politicians won’t live long enough to face the repercussions of not implementing a policy that would help the Earth, they don’t feel a pull to these laws and hence cannot be held accountable when things go wrong. The problem with the lack of incentive to bring about these changes is that the catastrophic, deeply rooted issues in our society aren’t solved, and are often pushed to a significantly worse degree.

On the contrary, younger politicians are more in tune with the concerns of the next generation, better able to plan ahead and institute radical change. They’ve experienced current prevalent issues (like anti-discrimination protests and rallies) with growth mindsets, to hope for change and equality for people. Politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who supported the “Green New Deal” and had experience working as a waitress and a bartender before running for Congress—are able to connect with the public and their needs, and to advocate for change [3]. On the other hand, elderly politicians did not grow up in the corresponding period as the current generation. As our society evolves, the people in power must evolve as well. Otherwise, our world is detrimentally held back and we lose focus on what’s critically important to today’s people.

The economy has also significantly transformed since the time elderly politicians grew up in. With rising costs of education and students taking on greater amounts of debt, senior politicians are unable to fully comprehend the struggles of today’s young adults. They grew up in an era where people were typically able to quickly get a job and a house, whereas in the current reality, this isn’t feasible for a large majority of people. The facts show that people are having a harder time surviving now compared to when older politicians grew up, which was the mid-1900s. For example, in 1981 the typical homebuyer was between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four, but now it’s considerably higher at forty-four years old due to rapidly rising home prices [4]. Another factor in not being able to immediately invest in a house is the increasing cost of education: the Canadian Federation of Students estimates that average student debt is almost $28 000. According to the Canada Student Loan Program, most students take ten years to pay off their loans, which would cripple many borrowers’ chances of securing a house or being able to focus on getting a job [5]. In fact, student loan debt only continues to grow [6]. What these numbers show is that it’s a lot more expensive and hard to live today than the time when older politicians were navigating adulthood. This means they won’t necessarily be enacting policies with the current situation in mind, and will instead be influenced by their own vastly contrasting experiences. Since they aren’t likely to adequately recognize and grasp the problems young adults currently face, they shouldn’t be making choices that change the lives of the current generation either.

What we’ve seen from old political leaders and their futile policies isn’t enough. In a society where reform is absolutely necessary, old politicians who lack the motivation and knowledge to make change cannot continue on in their ways. In a society that has evolved greatly from the dark ages, we cannot afford to remain stagnant. We need to end this period of inefficiency. For far too long, our policies have been inadequate to serve our generation. The new era must begin now.