Here’s a jarring fact: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joined the Senate in 1981. That’s longer than I’ve been alive on this earth. It’s also a year before the gathering where Christine Blasey Ford claims she was sexually assaulted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Many are questioning Ford’s ability to recall the incident, given the span of time that has elapsed. Yet few questions are raised about the amount of time people like Grassley have spent as elected officials in U.S. Congress.
Which is to say that the number of jowls at today’s Senate hearing about Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court is blinding.
I’m not the only one to make this observation. What the hearing makes clear is that most of the senators leading this investigation, and grilling Ford about a traumatic experience from three decades ago, are very old. Which leads to the simple conclusion that senators need term limits.
We need term limits, y’all. Desperately. #KavanaughHearings
— Ebony Elizabeth (@Ebonyteach) September 27, 2018
Grassley kicks it off by making a great case for term limits.
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) September 27, 2018
We’re entering a new era of U.S. politics and discourse, punctuated by movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It’s an era that requires care and understanding, as well as an updated methodology for approaching sensitive cultural issues. This is something that people like Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, clearly do not have. We saw this early on in the hearing when he unceremoniously interrupted his colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) when she was trying to introduce Ford. It was not the only instance in which he demonstrated his lack of decorum.
But while the country watches a group of older people ask un-delicate questions about trauma and sexual assault, it becomes abundantly clear that a political shakeup is necessary. Public dialog is progressing–making it possible for more women and marginalized people to tell their stories with even the slightest hope of being heard–but the people making the political decisions remain bygone and seemingly fastened. They are career politicians whose decisions may be swayed by the money funneling in, yet their cultural understanding is stuck in decades past.
Currently, the U.S. Constitution requires no term limits for senators, which is precisely why people like Grassley are able to hold such a position for 37 years. But maybe now would be a good time to rethink this. While an overwhelmingly white, male, and old group of people interrogate a woman who voluntarily came forward with a harrowing story, the chasm between these senators and the people they represent becomes more than apparent.
Of course, it would take the senators themselves to put forward new term limits, which would put them out of a job. So we shouldn’t expect any changes on the horizon. But perhaps if more new blood gets elected, we can start to work toward this small but important change.