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The Statue of Liberty - The statue is a personification of liberty in the form of a woman. She holds a torch in her raised right hand and clutches a tablet in her left.
Duvalier Malone explains that America's political system could be on the brink of collapse if our current leaders do not come up with an adequate succession plan to properly fill future leadership positions. “Only then can we ensure that our government is truly representative of the people and that the public’s interests are being served,” he writes. Photo by Ferdinand Stöhr on Unsplash

America’s Political System Looks Gloomy Without Succession Planning

For decades, America has been a leader in democracy and political stability. But without proper succession planning (a strategy for replacement planning or passing on leadership roles), our political system could be on the brink of collapse. 

America is a representative or indirect democracy, meaning the people vote for their own representatives—who in turn vote on policy initiatives—as opposed to a direct democracy, where the people choose leaders directly to act or make decisions on their behalf. 

This country’s form of democracy, once regarded as a model, has come under fire lately due to its numerous shortcomings and its gradual transformation into a government where a few wealthy, old, white people run the country.

Money Politics v. Fight for Democracy

This oligarchy has become quite expensive and is not for the fainthearted. In 1895, Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Hanna from Ohio said, “There are two things that are important in politics: The first is money, and I can’t remember the second.” More than a century later, his statement still remains valid. 

Illustration of a fat man on piles of money bags. Below it says "I am confident the working men are with us." (succession planning)
Industrialist and U.S. Sen. Mark Hanna is depicted in an 1896 political cartoon with his feet propped up on bags of “campaign funds” and a skull labeled “labor” under his whip. Cartoon by Homer Davenport, published in New York Journal, public domain

For example, the 2020 presidential and congressional elections gulped down a whopping $14 billion, which is thrice and twice the cost of the 2008 and 2016 elections, respectively. Money politics has eaten deep into the fabric of our electoral, legislative and administrative processes. Big companies, the oligarchs and some interest groups are the primary sources of political funding. 

Most winners of congressional elections in this country are the candidates who have greater financial support. These representatives then do the bidding of their financial backers at the expense of the people whose interests they should protect. They often speak for their own vested interests rather than the interest of vulnerable people. Even members of Congress have to collect money from the interests they’re meant to oversee in order to buy top spots on the most powerful committees. 

Dark money also floods our electoral system through super PACs because they engage in unlimited political spending and can raise funds from virtually anywhere including from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups. The high cost of running for office makes it hard for young people to beat those who have been in office for 20 years or more with thousands of dollars in their super PAC.

America’s democracy has become a gerontocracy—old men and women have hijacked it. For example, President Joe Biden, 80, and his predecessor, Donald Trump, 76, are running again for the country’s highest office under the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. 

Biden has served as a U.S. senator since 1973 before he became vice president in 2009, but his recent approval ratings are poor at best due to his age and his lackluster performance in the area of the economy. Trump on his own became the president of his father’s real-estate business in 1971 before assuming office as the 45th president of the United States from 2016 to 2020. 

Both Biden and Trump are the oldest U.S. presidents—Biden was 78, and Trump was 70 years old at their inaugurations. 

Side by side presidential portraits of Trump and Biden (succession planning)
“Both Biden and Trump are the oldest U.S. presidents—Biden was 78, and Trump was 70 years old at their inaugurations,” Duvalier Malone writes. Photos courtesy

Some other presidential aspirants for next year’s election are also in the same age bracket. Even Congress is getting older. The average age of the current congressional leadership in each party is even higher, with Democrats approaching 70. The average age of the Senate is 63, while that of the House of Representatives is a bit younger at age 58. These politicians continue to recycle themselves due to the absence of term limits. 

Some may argue that older politicians are more experienced and financially buoyant, therefore standing a better chance of winning an election and doing well in office. But the truth is that old age can come with its own challenges, including mental deterioration, which can negatively affect cognitive ability and hamper an effective decision-making process. Sometimes, they make far-reaching decisions that may haunt the younger generation. 

Erosion of Public Trust in U.S. Government

American politics should de-emphasize money, and all branches of government should have term limits. The future of American politics hangs in the balance if its two main political parties, Democratic and the Republican, can only field political veterans in an election. They should give younger candidates a chance. Younger candidates would bring much-needed energy into the political system and truly make America great again.

The lack of succession planning has become increasingly apparent in recent years, as partisan gridlock and political stalemates plague our government. With no clear line of succession, it is difficult to ensure that qualified and experienced leaders will be available to step in and fill the void when a leader leaves office. This failing has created a vicious cycle in which inexperienced and unqualified leaders are appointed to positions of power, leading to further political turmoil and instability.

a rolled up constitution displaying "We The People" on top of folded American flag (succession planning)
“Without proper succession planning, our political system looks bleak,” Duvalier Malone writes. “It is essential that we take steps to ensure that qualified and experienced leaders are chosen to fill positions of power.” Photo by

Furthermore, the lack of succession planning has left us vulnerable to the whims of special interests and wealthy donors. This makes it easy for the elite to influence the outcome of elections and manipulate the political process to their own advantage. This practice has led to an erosion of public trust in our government and a decrease in public participation in the political process.

It is also important that we create a system of accountability for elected officials. Instituting a system of checks and balances would ensure that elected officials are held responsible for their actions. This change would create an environment in which elected officials are held to a higher standard and are more likely to act in the public’s best interest.

Without proper succession planning, our political system looks bleak. It is essential that we take steps to ensure that qualified and experienced leaders are chosen to fill positions of power. Only then can we guarantee that our government is truly representative of the people and that the public’s interests are being served.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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