In the wake of the 2020 elections, many political observers were expecting lawmakers in the United States Congress to retire or move onto new roles in politics. Surprisingly, however, many younger members of Congress are now announcing their retirements from their respective houses as well, which is an uncommon occurrence.
Just recently, Representative Denver Riggleman, a Republican from Virginia, announced he would not seek re-election for 2021. Riggleman, 43 years old, has served in his position since 2018. He cited “continued partisan bickering” was one of the major reasons why he chose to retire now.
He joins several other young members of the House and Senate who have also recently announced their retirements. Among them include Republican Representative Will Hurd of Texas (43 years old) and Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia (79 years old). In addition, Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois and Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida also announced their retirements in the past few weeks, both of them being 69 and 77 years old, respectively.
This trend of unexpected younger member retirement may be attributed to many factors. One likely reason is the extreme level of gridlock and efforts by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to block bills and stifle progress in Congress. This increasingly hostile environment towards working together may be a turnoff to younger representatives who want to get something done and effect real change.
The retirements are also coming after chaotic 2020 elections in which Democrats won the White House and Senate, and Republicans defended their majority in the House. This could be another factor that has pushed some members to resign their positions, as well as emboldened some in the House to challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s authority.
With so many members of Congress retiring from the House and Senate, along with the dangerous divide between Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the future of the American political system is uncertain at best. It is clear that the existing political turmoil has driven some to retire now rather than later, and likely has many affects on the way lawmaking is done at the federal level.
Though the sudden wave of retirements isn’t the usual route for members in Congress, the mass departure of younger lawmakers is both unusual and telling of the state of the American political system. Only time will tell what will happen in the future, but it is clear lawmakers must work to bridge the ideological gaps between both sides of the aisle in order for Congress to become productive and successful.