by David Burstein
As Barack Obama stood in the congressional chamber on Tuesday to deliver his State of the Union address, he looked out at a room that housed one of the most diverse Congresses in history, with record numbers of women and minorities, the first bisexual member of Congress, the first openly gay senator, and two African-American senators among many other firsts. However, there is one measure by which the 113th Congress ranks among the least diverse in history: age. The average age in the House is 57 and in the Senate it is 62, both among the highest they have ever been.
This might not be so troubling if the issues currently under debate in Washington were not so essential to the future of the Millennial generation which numbers more than 80 million, making it the largest generation in history. After years of kicking the can down the road on everything from fiscal reform to the environment to immigration, these major issues of our time are coming to a head. The outcomes will affect younger Americans more than any other demographic slice. While older politicians often speak in stentorian words about the impact of various policies on their “children and grandchildren,” the fact is that these conversations, Millennials don’t have enough representation in Congress to have a real seat at the table. Talking about our future without having any of us at the forefront of the discussion should be seen for what it is — as appalling as last summer’s Congressional hearing about birth control, which featured no women.
If an asteroid were headed for Earth, we’d all band together and figure out how to stop it, just like in the movies, right? And yet, when faced with major, data-supported, end-of-the-world problems in real life, too often we retreat into partisan shouting and stalemate. Jonathan Haidt shows us a few of the very real asteroids headed our way — some pet causes of the left wing, some of the right — and suggests how both wings could work together productively to benefit humanity as a whole.