Maybe Just Retire?

Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It is with some surprise and not much pleasure that I must inform you that Nancy Pelosi is seeking reelection. The 83-year-old congresswoman, who represents California’s 12th District in the House of Representatives, announced on Friday that she hopes to keep her seat come the 2024 election.

Pelosi’s news is startling for a number of reasons, chief among them that she is no longer Speaker of the House, having ceded the position to Kevin McCarthy after Democrats lost their House majority in 2022. Without the power of leadership in Congress, Pelosi was widely expected to step down, and perhaps even retire from politics altogether, her being 83 and all.

Her retirement seemed especially imminent given recent events that have further eroded our faith in the country’s increasingly apparent gerontocracy. Twice now, the gears in Mitch McConnell’s head have appeared to grind to a complete halt mid–press conference. Across the aisle, 90-year-old Senator Dianne Feinstein has weathered several health scares and a hospitalization this year alone. She seemed more than a little out of it during a Senate Appropriations hearing in July, where she had to be prompted to vote “aye.”

Pelosi, however, has repeatedly insisted that concerns about Feinstein’s ability to do her job are just sexist criticisms that would not be leveled at a man whose office attempted to cover up a diagnosis that’s been known to impair people’s memories. To be clear, people seem to have pretty strong concerns about similarly-aged male politicians like McConnell and even Chuck Grassley, who has drawn criticism about his age (he turns 90 this month) without suffering any obvious health problems. While plenty of octogenarians are perfectly capable of working, voting, and managing a constituency, a fair number of our elder states people seem to be losing control of their faculties in real time. Though Pelosi doesn’t fall into that camp, it’s hard to see why someone who’s done her time and then some wouldn’t want to get out while the getting is good.

Because keep in mind, Pelosi and her husband are said to have made tens of millions of dollars in investments while she was Speaker, which is more than enough money to cruise into not-at-all-early retirement. That’s a luxury many people in younger generations will not be able to afford. Why not, after nearly five decades working in an acutely stressful field — including two terms as House Speaker, a global pandemic, an insurrectionist riot, and a hammer attack in her household — seize the opportunity for a peaceful coastal existence? Even I can admit that the beach is a nicer place to eat one’s daily hot dog lunches than Capitol Hill.

Maybe Just Retire?