Guest Post

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A CASE FOR TERM LIMITS

By Linda Creasy

Americans argue about political theory, partisan objectives, and the role of government in our lives, but we all seem to agree that our elected leaders are not performing to expectations! How can we combat this unacceptable performance while fulfilling the need for the citizen legislature necessary to a true representative democracy? I would argue that term limits is the most logical place to start..

Consider the ways in which term limits can address some common concerns of today’s Americans.

  • The longer members are in Congress, the more they are exposed to the “ruling class” culture of regulation and spending. Term limits would eliminate this cultural change, as the representatives simply would not be there for more than 6 years.
  • Term limits would increase the competitiveness of elections and the diversity of those who choose to run.
  • The assumption that elections serve as built-in term limits is highly flawed, as there are well-documented advantages of incumbency in an election. Term limits would level the playing field between incumbent and challenger, providing a more balanced and spirited campaign.
  • Faced with term limits, leaders would know that their time in office was limited, and would be less likely to focus on special interests. While some corruption is unavoidable, there is less chance of it among new leaders who have not yet learned to exploit the system for personal gain.
  • The lack of term limits has led to a system of seniority in which those who have spent the most time in office gain more power through committees and procedures. Term limits would force the long-term leaders to be replaced with new blood that would know they have a limited amount of time to fulfill their campaign promises.
  • The longer politicians remain in office, the more adept they become at leveraging votes for personal gain. Term limits would dramatically reduce the political gamesmanship of voting to gain “job security” vs. voting for the beliefs and will of the constituents they represent.
  • Theoretically, term limits would impose a time limit in which legislators could work to accomplish their goals and fulfill their campaign promises. If they are reasonably successful, they will be re-elected for a second and final term. If not, the voters will replace them during the next election

Given the numerous benefits of term limits, why have they not been implemented? Clearly, the issue is not the support of the electorate or the logistics of creating a bill. The simple fact is that those who would be responsible for passing such legislation are the very individuals that would be affected the most…the legislators themselves. We have an issue that transcends partisanship, but we are rendered ineffective in our attempts to rectify the problem because our elected officials are more interested in their own political careers than the will of the people.

We must become more engaged and informed. We must actively follow the actions of our leaders and demand from them a level of honesty and accountability. We must insist that our leaders remember the private sector from which they came and must return. We must demonstrate to those we have elected that we understand that for a legislature to be successful, those serving must view their time in office as a leave of absence from their jobs in the private sector, not as a career incentive. We must let them know at every turn that no Congressman should ever view their position as a lifetime career choice, but rather as a limited time of service to the people that elected them. And finally, we must recruit, support, and elect a new breed of politician that will have the courage to fight for the implementation of term limits and bring long awaited change to our representative democracy.

26 Comments on "Guest Post"

  1. Pat Fish says:

    I’m with you all the way with this, Linda.

    Great post by the way.

    I always kind of shrugged my shoulders when folks would say that it is for the electorate to “unelect” someone, rather than term limits.

    But it’s not like these people, some of them, represent JUST their constituency. John McCain gets elected over and over and every vote the man makes affects ME. Same with Harry Reid and those other long-term blowhards.

    I say keep the lack of term limits to those elected folks who are affected by the actions of the non-term limit politicos and those affecting the rest of the world who doesn’t have a vote….IMPOSE TERM LIMITS ON THEM!

    Anybody thinks McCain, Reid….the whole lot of them, will ever vote for term limits upon themselves,….I got a bridge to sell cheap. Sways a bit in the wind but got a good price on it.

  2. Rick says:

    Given the numerous benefits of term limits, why have they not been implemented? Clearly, the issue is not the support of the electorate or the logistics of creating a bill. The simple fact is that those who would be responsible for passing such legislation are the very individuals that would be affected the most…the legislators themselves.

    Congress cannot impose federal term limits. It would require a Constitutional Amendment, which requires the approval of 3/4ths of the state legislatures to be ratified.

    I am not necessarily opposed to term limits. But an amendment is a high bar; it only takes thirteen states to block the effort.

  3. Rick says:

    Re, the comment above, here are the constitutional requirements (prohibitions) for being able to serve as a Representative (House), from Article I. There is a similar clause pertaining to the Senate;

    No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State…

    Notice that the Constitution doesn’t say anything about having served in office for “X” number of years. Hence, the need for an amendment.

  4. Linda Creasy says:

    Rick, agreed. We see no direct mention of term limits in the Constitution, leading opponents of the idea to conclude that the imposition of such would contradict the intent of its authors. A more realistic explanation for the omission would be that the framers did not consider term limits necessary as such, because they assumed a code of honor among politicians, and an informed and involved electorate who would hold them accountable for their actions. Sadly, neither of these scenarios exist today!

  5. Frank Knotts says:

    But Linda, it doesn’t matter why the Framers didn’t put limits on terms, the fact is they didn’t. This has been demonstrated by the passing of an amendment to term limit the office of president. By the way, in my view it was when a single branch of government was term limited that the checks and balances intended by the Framers was lost. Congress knows it can just wait out a strong president.
    That is not an argument for term limits. I oppose term limits of any office.
    You make the case that term limits would send the message that those elected only had so long to deliver on their campaign promises. In reality it would damn us to a never ending cycle of “new” ideas.
    One legislator gets in and puts into motion his vision, but is unable to complete it in the limits of his terms. Then the next person comes along with anew visions, scraps everything prior and starts over, maybe not finishing either. How much wasted time and money would this cost the tax payers.
    There is also the idea that we often point out that the elected officials are working for us. Now think of yourself and an employer, would you let your best worker go simply because they had worked for you for X amount of years?
    The problem is the voters. All of your points, while valid can be offset by an informed and involved voter.
    I have to say in most cases term limits are proposed by the party who is having trouble winning. They should work harder to register and get out the vote. The Framers were lightening in a bottle, not sure there is anyone around right now capable of improving on their work.

  6. Linda Creasy says:

    Frank,

    I agree with you on two points…

    The 22nd Amendment should have been applied to all three branches or none at all (preferably the former, in my view). By limiting it to the Executive branch, the intent of the Framers was markedly compromised.

    I also agree that the problem at this point lies squarely with the voters. The vast majority of the electorate are uninformed drones (across the political spectrum), who have no interest in educating themselves about the candidates, place a higher priority on the latest upheaval in the Kardashian family vs. the state of the country, and who mindlessly vote simply for a familiar name or party, if they can even be coerced to head to the polls at all. Until these people become engaged in their own future, we are on a continuously destructive path. Hence, we cannot resort to the informed and involved voter to address this issue (which I agree would be the best method).

    I would further propose that with the imposition of term limits, the electorate would be inspired to become more engaged, as they would start to believe that change is no longer just a catch phrase, but the actual law. Right now, no one believes that campaign promises will actually be met, or that a voter can make a difference once the candidate is in office. With term limits, they would be equipped with the knowledge that those they elect must respond efficiently and with purpose in order to keep their campaign promises, and would be empowered to hold the candidates’ feet to the fire.

    Finally, you state that “The Framers were lightening in a bottle, not sure there is anyone around right now capable of improving on their work.”. True…so I maintain that we should heed their wisdom. The framers of our Constitution wanted the country’s elected leaders to be close to the people they represented in the private sector. Roger Sherman (CT), a founding father and member of the Committee of Five, was also the only person to sign the Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Sherman’s words make clear the intent of the framers on this issue:

    “Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their constituents.”

    Wise man, that Sherman! :-)

  7. Frank Knotts says:

    Linda to your last point first, my interpretation of Sherman’s statement that they should return home to mix with those they represent, meant during their terms. That is why the congressional assemblies are broken up, to allow the legislators a chance to go home and mix.
    What good would it do for them to go home and mix after term limits? If they were out of office they could affect no change.
    Secondly, what is the stick, if the carrot does not work? You say term limits would inspire legislators to work harder. Why? If they know they cannot be re-elected, then what is their motivation? I think term limits would have the opposite effect.
    Think of any lame-duck president, or congress now. With term limits you would have a self imposed line of lame duck legislators. Those at the end of their term limits would find no cooperation from those just beginning.
    Trust the Framers.
    I say again, it is up to the parties and the informed voters to work harder to register and inform more people.
    “The easy way is not always the right way, and the right way is almost never easy.” That is a Frank Knotts quote.

  8. Rick says:

    Rick, agreed. We see no direct mention of term limits in the Constitution…

    The fact that term limits isn’t mentioned is irrelevant. The constitution sets age, citizenship and residency requirements. You can’t amend the constitution through legislation. It is that simple.

  9. Linda Creasy says:

    Rick, I think I already agreed with you on that one. Amendment would be needed, and that would decidedly be a long shot! :-)

  10. Linda Creasy says:

    Frank, the fact that terms would be limited would inherently attract those with a genuine passion and self-imposed motivation to seek office, rather than those we have at present. We would have representation that is determined to enact change vs. self-promotion, and would consequently focus their efforts on their constituents rather than themselves.

  11. Frank Knotts says:

    Linda, even if I concede that it would attract the type of person you believe, which I don’t, that does not alter the fact that term limits would create a ready made line of lame ducks.
    Trust the Framers.
    What if Reagan could have held another term?
    I say again, term limits are the fall back position of the party that has trouble winning, right now that is the GOP. The way to change that is not to scramble the Constitution is an attempt to gerrymander elections.
    Try this one on for size. Say we were to get term limits. You have now given voters a reason to come out and vote, but which voters? We have a large number of our citizens who rely on government entitlements. What if they are motivated to come out and vote to keep placing people in office who will vote for those entitlements. The conservatives in office would be termed out in short order and would never be able to regain control.
    I am sure you are a person who appreciates history. What was the first thing an army did in WWII during an invasion? They establish a beach head. They then worked further and further inland, but they did not surrender that beach head, they built upon it and used it as a supply line.
    That is how we should think of regaining political balance in Delaware and D.C.
    Any ground gained should not be surrendered to an arbitrary time line. Win, hold, fight, win hold, conquer.

  12. Linda Creasy says:

    Very good analogy, Frank! I see your point, but am still not swayed.

    I think you would agree that there are many in office that have been there far too long and at best have completely lost touch with their base. At worst, they know what the base wants and needs but ignore it in the pursuit of re-election. Other than term limits, how would you propose getting them out of there and replacing at least those people with fresh blood? It would appear that we can’t rely on the electorate to recognize the problem and correct it at the voting booth.

  13. Frank Knotts says:

    We often forget that we live in a Representative Republic, but that we are not the only ones to be represented. We feel that because our views are not the ones carrying the day that the system is broke and we must change the system.
    Linda, it is not the system that is broke, in my view it is the message and the way we attempt to deliver it that is broken.
    The GOP fails because they fail to recognize the changing desires of the people. Our government was designed to be able to change according to the will of the people. It is not the government that you are dissatisfied with, it is your fellow citizens that have lead it in this directions.
    We change it by changing the will of the people. We do that by example. Right now the GOP is having an identity crisis. That is why they are not winning.

  14. Linda Creasy says:

    But Frank, this is a bipartisan issue. The people that have been in DC too long and that are ignoring their constituents fall on both sides of the aisle. While some of your points are valid, this particular problem is not a function of any one party.

  15. Rick says:

    I don’t want to give the impression that I am opposed to term limits. But it can’t be done by legislation. Thus, a campaign for a Constitutional Amendment must be initiated. It is quite possible that enough states are fed-up with professional politicians that it would be ratified.

    In the GOP, Trump, Carson and Fiorina are doing quite well. What do they have in common?

    They are not professional politicians.

    Many Americans, particularly Republicans, are getting sick-and-tired of having to hold their nose and vote for incompetent career politicians who never really accomplish much other than growing government; raising taxes, initiating burdensome new regulations and adding to our incomprehensible 19-trillion-dollar-debt.

    We need fresh ideas and leaders who are prepared to face reality. Our nation’s future is more important than perpetual re-election campaigns.

  16. Linda Creasy says:

    Thank you, Rick! A voice of reason! LOL

    So…when are you organizing that campaign? 😉

  17. Frank Knotts says:

    So Rick, could you tell us again how term limits would be possible?
    Linda, everything is partisan in politics. Term limits would not change that.
    I point out the Republican Party, and their associates, the libertarian and TEA factions within the GOP, because that is who is most vocal about term limits right now. And why? Because as Rick would agree I am sure, our government is in a progressive phase right now and the Republicans can’t seem to overcome that in elections, so they propose that we ignore the wisdom of the Framers, and try to rig the elections. To force out not only the bad but the good as well.
    Sorry, but I trust the Framers.
    Linda you still have not addressed the issue of a continuous line of lame duck office holders. Just think about the last two year term of any given Representative, what could they accomplish? Nothing. In fact, you may have actually created an insensitive for them to get all they can get as quickly as possible before the clock runs out.

  18. Rick says:

    So Rick, could you tell us again how term limits would be possible?

    There is only one way, and that would be to amend Article I of the U.S. Constitution, and have a prohibition against serving another term immediately following service for “X” number of years. This clause would be added to the other qualifications, i.e., age, citizenship and residency.

    Per Article V., there are two ways in which a constitutional amendment may be initiated; a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate or a convention of the states resulting in a 2/3 majority of state legislatures approving the proposed amendment. The amendment would then be up for ratification; to be ratified, and become part of the Constitution, 3/4ths of the state legislatures would have to vote for the amendment. This means that thirteen states can block an amendment.

    It is a difficult process; of the two possible methods, a states’ convention seems the most plausible. But don’t hold your breath.

  19. Frank Knotts says:

    Ah Rick, your chain is hanging out and it has been yanked.

  20. Pat Fish says:

    Why not add the term limit amendments wile doing that balanced budget thing with Mark Levin?

    I agree that the Framers didn’t want term limits for Senators and Representatives else they would have mentioned it. They mentioned that bit about the President didn’t they? I don’t think they forgot.

    But I’m wondering if the Famers ever perceived of an entire country can be affected by votes from Senators from a few powerful states. Which effectively, I’d argue, creates a condition of taxation without representation. I can’t vote for John McCain but he can vote for stuff I don’t like and I got to depend on HIS voters to throw him out.

    Still and so I’m on the fence about term limits and as for the discussion here, I have read both Linda’s and Frank’s arguments and I’d call it a tie. Both of you make valid points on why term limits are, or are not, a good thing.

    Since those who will pay the price of changing to term limits will NOT vote for it, likely, we’d have to go with the constitutional amendment.

    And even with the help of Mark Levin that’s not likely to happen.

  21. Fish Bites says:

    “I agree that the Framers didn’t want term limits for Senators and Representatives else they would have mentioned it. They mentioned that bit about the President didn’t they?”

    No Pat. Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four terms as president. He died during his fourth term.

    It was the Republicans who pushed through term limits after that. It’s the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. I realize you don’t often look at the Constitution, but this wasn’t all that long ago. It was passed by Congress in 1947 and ratified by the states in 1951.

    The first president affected by it was Eisenhower, and the next one after that was Reagan.

  22. Rick says:

    Ah Rick, your chain is hanging out and it has been yanked.

    What is that supposed to mean?

    You asked me….

    So Rick, could you tell us again how term limits would be possible?

    I answered.

    You cannot add a disqualification for holding federal elective office through legislation, because the U.S. Constitution clearly articulates the requirements in Article I.

    Of course, the states and local jurisdictions can legislate term limits if not prohibited by their states’ constitution.

    I don’t get your comment. Try plain English next time.

  23. Frank Knotts says:

    It was sarcasm Rick. You had stated the need for an Amendment 3 times prior to my comment. Sometimes it is just for fun. If you always take things so seriously you may never know joy.

  24. Pat Fish says:

    So I am wrong about presidential term limits being in the constitution….thank you Fish Bites.

    Forgot about Roosevelt.

    Hmmmmm. So okay, if the constitution was amended to make term limits for the president….well they didn’t add senators and reps. to the list, did they?

    Still not convinced that they should.

  25. Rick says:

    If you’re going to use “sarcasm,” make it recognizably so.

    If you always take things so seriously you may never know joy.

    What’s with the cracker-barrel psychology, especially coming from a perpetually-angry blogger?

  26. Frank Knotts says:

    See Rick. So serious. Considering you had stated it three times, thought asking you to do it again was fairly obvious sarcasm, unless a person takes themself too seriously.
    As for me being perpetually-angry? Not so, you just don’t always like what I have to say, so you minimize it by calling it angry. So progressive of you Rick. (Sarcasm)

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