Think for a minute how Congress works. You get elected by raising money from donors large and small. The larger donors expect something in return. Because you want to be re-elected you give those favors by blocking legislation, introducing legislation or pressuring the federal bureaucracy in some manner.
The longer you are reelected the more influence you have and the more money you can raise and the more and larger favors you can provide. Gradually you lose your perspective on doing the right thing for not only your constituents, but more important, for all of America.
When you finally do retire, there is an 80% chance you will become a lobbyist thereby becoming another part of the problem only with scores of inside contacts … and the cycle continues unabated.
We have term limits for the President, largely as a result of Roosevelt breaking the tradition of two terms. Hey, Eleanor wanted him to become a dictator so I guess we are lucky. 😜
Ronald Reagan’s opposition to term limits points out exactly why we need term limits for Congress. Voters do send members of Congress back for 30-40 years not because they are doing a good job, not because voters are making a serious evaluation, but because of mere name recognition and inertia. Even a well-meaning individual who is elected eventually falls into the re-election power trap and under the influence of party politics. Exercising free will is not the issue, we are way beyond that. There is plenty of free will to be exercised finding good candidates and holding them accountable. I think the fact we re-elect crooks and con men and vote for a few dead candidates voids the free will argument.
“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.” 22nd amendment to the Constitution.
Some congressional opponents of the 22nd Amendment argued that it restricted voters from exercising their will. As Democratic U.S. Rep. John McCormack of Massachusetts proclaiming during a debate over the proposal:
“The framers of the Constitution considered the question and did not think they should tie the hands of future generations. I don’t think we should. Although Thomas Jefferson favored only two terms, he specifically recognized the fact that situations could arise where a longer tenure would be necessary.”
One of the most high-profile opponents of the two-term limit for presidents was Republican President Ronald Reagan, who was elected to and served two terms in office.
Later, Reagan expressed his position more clearly. “In thinking about it more and more, I have come to the conclusion that the 22nd Amendment was a mistake,” Reagan said. “Shouldn’t the people have the right to vote for someone as many times as they want to vote for him? They send senators up there for 30 or 40 years, congressmen the same.”
Recently a friend asked me what can we do to promote term limits. Here are my thoughts.
- Keep up the pressure on social media and by writing to members of Congress
- Find and support new candidates that support the idea
- Do not re-elect members of Congress who have served more than two terms
Note: To make this work there will need to be a long transition period. In addition, we will need to restructure the compensation and benefits for Congress so that it is feasible for average income individuals to serve for a limited period without financial hardship or to be susceptible to undue influence.
Count me IN! I have been trying to elect non-incumbents for years. Most believe it’s the other guys representitive not mine that is the problem or corrupted.
You provide good arguments for term limits, but I’m an absolute pessimist that term limits will be instituted. Why? Term limits impose an additional responsibility on voters to research candidates and study issues. If there is anything to be said about the American electorate (including those who are eligible and don’t vote) which I consider unarguable is that they are generally uninformed and lazy. Even getting term limits into law supposes a concern and involvement that is not there.
Sadly, you are correct. However, given that term limits seem to be the best hope … getting them is another matter.