John Harwood tweets a reminder: “when MLK spoke at the March on Washington, he was 34 years old.”
Which is nothing but a good reminder of how foolish and how undemocratic the Constitution’s age minimums for federal office are. Do people really think King was less able to be president of the United States at that point than any number of the senators and governors of the time?
Want more? A few weeks ago, someone put together the ages of the Founding Fathers as of July 4, 1776 — which demonstrated that quite a few of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were too young then to have been president, or even U.S. senators.
As John Seery makes the case for it, there’s just no reason in a democracy for minimum age limits to serve in office. If a democracy is to be “by the people,” then limiting service in some elective offices to only a subset of those people just doesn’t make any sense. One is only a full citizen if one can take part in all the responsibilities and privileges of self-government.
Would allowing younger people to sit in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the presidency leave open the risk some poor choices? Of course. But that’s democracy. There’s no particular reason to believe that 25-year-olds would make better House members than 21-year-olds, or even 18-year-olds. Indeed, it’s not as if dropping the minimums would mean that young people would win all that many different elections. But it would allow them, as Seery says, to think of themselves as full citizens. And that’s not bad.