Should a Cognitive Test Be Required for Aging Politicians?

A Republican senator from Louisiana supports a cognitive test for older politicians. As Congress’s average age has been steadily increasing for 30 years – would you too?

Chanikarn Thongsupa

LBJ Library

Brendan Smialowski, Agence France-Presse


Should a Cognitive Test Be Required for Aging Politicians?

Here at Political Playlist we came across a piece of news recently that spoke pretty directly to our mission to focus on the youngest members of Congress.

To set the stage: a78-year-old, an 81-year-old, a 70-year-old and a 79-year-old walk into a bar. And no this isn’t the cast of ‘Grace and Frankie’ — it’s the leaders of our federal government. We’ve all had a conversation in the last few years about how ironic/funny/weird/scary it is that so many of the most powerful people in our country (and the world) are well into their late-70s and 80s. You may have even thrown around the idea of administering some sort of cognitive test? If so, you’re not alone.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) who is a doctor by trade favors cognitive tests and explained why in a recent interview with Axios. While wisdom comes with age, science shows that we lose something — in our 80s we typically have rapid decline. A very cool time to be making consequential decisions about other people’s well-being! Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 88, won another 6-year term last year and Sen. Chuck Grassley, also 88, is running for re-election next year.

Now, look — we’re not ageists here at Political Playlist, but our mission stems from the belief that young political leaders have a unique perspective on the problems we face today. Seeing the same faces in office for literal decades doesn’t inspire much hope or open the possibility for any real change that we might desire. The average age of an American is 37-years-old. Even with the best of intentions, there is simply no way for most of these older politicians to understand the life experience of a Millennial or a Gen Zer (the generations which now make up the majority of eligible voters).

Without going too deep into whether Grandpa Grassley or Cousin AOC knows best, the mere fact of our aging Congress (which has been getting steadily older for the past 30 years) must be addressed. In other occupations with lives at stake like commercial pilots, law enforcement, and even in some states, judges, there is usually a forced retirement policy around age 65.

So, we leave you with this Big Question — would you support a cognitive test for aging politicians?

For more coverage and discussion of topics like this, be sure you tune into the Political Playlist Happy Hour podcast.