Ten Miles Square


April 18, 2012 11:35 AM The 86-year-old Senator?

By Andrew Gelman

I see in the paper that Sen. Lugar of Indiana is facing the possibility of involuntary retirement. As a political scientist, I’m in favor of more primary challenges—-I don’t see why anybody should be getting a free ride.

The real question, though, is why would Lugar want another six years in congress, given that he’s already 80 years old? I can see why, if he’s challenged, he’d want to fight, but why didn’t he just decide a year ago not to run for reelection?

Part of this must be a sense of duty—-the idea that he is the best person for the job, among all the plausible alternatives. But I wonder if another motivation is to keep his senatorial perks. I can relate to this. We’re living in a Columbia University apartment, and the conditions of our lease say that if I retire, we have to move out. I could see myself at 80 years old, creaking through my classes but not wanting to quit because we wouldn’t want to get kicked out of the apartment we’d been living in for decades. Leaving the pampered world of the U.S. Congress—-that could be even more difficult, especially if you’ve been there for a third of a century.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.


  • kevmor on April 18, 2012 4:47 PM:

    So, what's your take on Senator Frank Lautenberg,(D-NJ), who just a few months ago celebrated his 88th Birthday?

  • jpeckjr on April 19, 2012 12:40 AM:

    Serving in the Senate is a singular honor, but, really, retirement for a Senator is not a bad gig either. More honorable, I would think, than defeat in a primary.