Washington insiders have always called Congress an “old boys club.” And why would they call it anything different today? After all, the average age of the incoming class of Congressman is 58 years and in the Senate, it is 61 years, very close to the all-time highs set in 2007 by the 110th Congress of 57 years and 63 years.
Last month’s elections did help plant some cracks in the proverbial glass ceiling, however. Walking into the chambers for the first time this January will be a crop of new members under the age of forty bringing some much-needed change and youth to the halls of the United States Congress.
Seven of these new Congressmen, including Patrick Murray (D-Fla.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) are age 35 or younger. Four of them were born in or after 1980, a 200 percent increase from the 112th Congress, the current session of Congress, when only Republicans Aaron Schock (Ill.) and Justin Amash (Mich.) were born in the eighties.
Several other current members are under the age of 40, including Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.), but weren’t born post-MTV in the eighties.
Many of these new members also bring with them extensive political backgrounds despite their youth. Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, elected last month to represent Hawaii’s Second Congressional District, is a combat veteran and the youngest person to ever be elected to the Hawaii State Legislature. Massachusetts Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy has spent his entire life in the political sphere. As the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the son of former Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, politics literally runs in Kennedy’s blood.
Another 11 new Members of Congress are between the ages of 36 and 40 (a twelfth, Democratic Senator-Elect Chris Murphy, is not exactly “new” considering he represented Connecticut’s Fourh District in the last Congress). In short, the number of Congressmen under the age of forty this term will be nearly double that during the 110th Congress six years ago.
So why is this? According to Politico, social media has a played a large role in this increase. Amash told the paper that his use of social media has been “helpful picking up support and respect from people on the other side of the aisle.” The Congressman is well-known in Washington for posting his own tweets instead of relying on a staffer to update the site.
And this trend appears to be rubbing off on his new peers. Incoming Democrat Eric Swalwell of California “plans to connect with his Bay Area constituents during city council and school board meetings using Web chats – timing them so he can speak to the groups when they’re meeting on the West Coast.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – both of whom are in their forties – will be the first to admit that they are far different from their elder colleagues, starting with their music choices. Perhaps the playlists of these upcoming new members will also include far more Nirvana and Eminem than the Congress before them, too.