Monday, September 19, 2005The New York Times wrote an interesting piece this weekend on the effect that term limits has had on encouraging young candidates to run for office. Which would amount to a good argument for term limits (which I have generally opposed). There was one thing in the article that really disturbed me, however...
...A 2003 study by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers found that roughly half of all governors, United States senators and members of Congress held their first electoral office before the age of 35. The study also found that politicians under 35 are overwhelmingly male (as are elected leaders in general), that 81 percent of them are white and that 29 percent have relatives who are or were in politics.
The first part isn't so surprising, since it takes time to climb the political ladder. The earlier you start, the better chance you have to advance. But the second point, that nearly a third of young candidates are members of political families... that's pretty disturbing. Sure, I can see how it works: if you grow up around politics, you're likely to get involved earlier in life. And it may be that "families involved in politics" means mostly activists rather than elected officials - but I'm a little sceptical of this point, given the decline in the number of activists over the last generation.
What bothers me is the possibility that an unintended consequence of term limits is to elect a bunch of people from political dynasties. And that's not democracy - it's aristocracy.