Home > Editorial > A Word On Term Limits

A Word On Term Limits

I didn’t vote today.

Why do you ask? Because in my district or state at least, I wasn’t part of a real election. We vote in our governor the same time we do our President. These are both important positions that decide the fate of our country and state. These two positions hold a ton of power, and if you don’t vote in their races, you’re seriously missing out on the fate of our nation. No reason to complain if you didn’t vote on the other hand.

Senators and House Representatives on the other hand? Not real positions.

You see, most political positions have term limits. This was put in place by our founding fathers in order to avoid the long-reign of the crazy kings of England. Back in the day, once a ruler got in power in England, they stayed there. You see it all throughout history. Good rulers brought prosperity. Bad rulers brought times of trouble, and sometimes ended the long runs of their civilizations. If you were stuck with a bad leader, the only hope you had was for him to have a quick demise, natural or unnatural.

Strike that, our Presidents of old didn’t really have term limits. Sure, they had to get reelected every 4 years, but they could be President for as long as they damn well please. Before 1950, this was never a problem because the President always got sick of being President by the time of the 3rd election. That is until FDR came around. You see, towards the end of his life, FDR was in serious denial about his mortality. When he clearly looked sickened and pale, he felt no reason to prepare his vice-President for his inevitable demise. When the time of his 3rd election came around, he was by no means ready to give up the seat, and since everybody like FDR anyways, they just voted him in, no real contest.

And that’s the problem. With every term you take, the people get more used to you, getting more resistant to change in the process. The people knew what FDR was going to do. They knew he had brought them out of the great depression, and was bringing them out of WW2. He was doing right by the country in their minds, so there was no reason to let him go. Congress was in the tank for him. Everybody that knew him was in the tank for him. What FDR wanted, FDR usually got. Hell, if FDR had lived, we would have avoided the Cold War because everybody else loved him, especially Stalin. The only reason FDR didn’t serve longer is because he died.

And that’s the problem with not having term limits. Limits being the key phrase here. Congress saw the problem of FDR’s growing power, and cut it off for all future Presidents. Now, you can only be in office for 8 years, be elected twice, and THAT’S IT. The system has worked well so far. Now it seems like 8 years may be too many. If you look back at the last few 8-year Presidents, it seems like their Presidencies went to hell around the 6-year mark anyways. There were active countdowns waiting for Bush Jr. to get out, Clinton vastly divided the nation with his sex scandal, Reagan started getting old, Nixon had his deal & Johnson had Vietnam.

Point is, term limits protect America, protect its people from making stupid mistakes, protects its Presidents, and most importantly, protects the system.

Senators and House Representatives on the other hand…

They rarely, if ever give up their position and typically stay in their seats for as long as possible, getting incentives the longer they usually stay.

This year, the longest running Senator died, after serving some 50-years, and was celebrated for his service. Celebrated? Why? This man was a prime example of a broken system. What possible change could he have enacted towards the end of his run? The man was in the range of 90-years old!

How it possible that he never got voted out of office? Easy.

The first few times you run as Senator, it’s hard. Not only do you have to run against a proven commodity, but you have to prove you’re a greater commodity, by any means necessary. Once you’re in office, congratulations. Now you have to make a name for yourself by any means necessary, since the senior members aren’t going to give you the time of day when you first get in. Barack Obama got himself a name, but he never did a whole lot. Sure, he voted a few times, but that’s about it, mostly because he was busy doing other stuff, like making a name for himself.

By the time of your reelection, you have to prove that you were a valuable commodity during your first term. Prove this, you’re in. From here, it gets exponentially easier. In 20 years, you’re bound to have done something helpful that your voters will care about. Your opponent, being a rookie, will have done nothing, thus ensuring you have another term. And another term. Unless you really piss off your voters, or you’ve put yourself in a big enough light to piss off the rest of America, ala what Harry Reid might have done, you’re essentially set for life.

Are you spending this whole time working for you voters? No. You’re looking after the bigger picture. A spot on a committee is a good resume builder, and looks good in campaign ads. All of this usually culminates in the best position you can put yourself in, and what you can use to build off it. Nancy Pelosi used her position to get speaker of the house, which will likely be the biggest position she will ever hold, unless she pleases somebody to the point of being put in a bigger political office i.e. Secutary of State. John Kerry took his position and made a run at President with it. Sure, he didn’t win, but he came back one of the most senior and respected Senators in Congress. He can ride that wave till the day he dies, and he goes down in the history books.

Point is, they’re not working for you, they’re working for themselves. They’ll work for you to build a resume for their first few years, and then come out with a major bill every once in a while, but that’s it. It’s all about them.

Term limits on the other hand? There goes the safety net. For ever year after a certain point in office, you start getting lazier, term limits takes this away from you. That way you work your whole way through, except for your last full year or two, where you can make a jump at the Presidency.

This also makes sure that Congress is constantly being filled with fresh blood, hoping to build enough of a resume to go onto bigger and better things i.e. the Presidency.

One of the big problems in this country is lack of fresh ideas, and an unwillingness to implement them. Old Congressman quickly get set in their ways, and eventually it just becomes stalemate where nothing ever gets done. In this way, the pot is always in motion, ideas are constantly being tossed around, and changes are constantly being implemented in order for Congressman to be boosting their resumes.

There’s no respected Senators anymore, where the emphasis is not what you have done for he, it’s what are you doing for me.

Oh, but senior members of Congress are needed for the committees! Do they really? What constitutes as Senior? 20 years, as many things in Congress are considered currently? Wrong. 20 years is much too long, and if you don’t get elected to a committee, then it becomes the point of laziness in your running.

Another reason? Congressman aren’t always thinking about how an issue will affect them in the next election. In the current system, this is always a problem. Thus, to play it safe, Congressman will almost always play along party lines for fear of being ousted by their party, or getting a bad rap for not playing for the people who elected them. Sure, the problem won’t be eliminated, but I do believe it will be significantly lessened.

Is my system naive and a bit idealistic? Sure. But Democracy is broken, and I believe this is a key fix to the problem. Only problem is that these changes will never be implemented by Congress because they don’t want to put themselves out of business. This change has to be enacted by other means. Means that aren’t afraid to make enemies. Under my proposed change, this wouldn’t immediately oust Congressman either. If they’re over the limit, let them finish out their term. Just don’t let them run again.

Speaking of limits, what should they be? personally, this is a figure I’m willing to move on. It must be between 8-20 years though. I would personally pick 12, but 18 would be fine for now.

But until these changes are enacted, the deck is stacked against the American public, and I refuse to take part in it. It’s not like the Presidency where you pick the lesser of two evils, knowing that the most you have to live with your mistake is 8 years. No, with Congressman you are potentially letting these people in for LIFE. Do I want Virginia Foxx or Billy Kennedy in office forever? HELL. NO.

There isn’t a lesser of two evils, it’s mostly just two evils. Unless you get a solid candidate you can live with, I personally don’t feel like I really want to live with the fact that I contributed to the madness. I can live with my silence. In this election, I don’t think I could live with speaking up.

As for the balance of power in the house and senate, let the chips fall where they may. Barack Obama can find a way to live with either situation, and he can certainly find himself electable in either situation. Plus, do really want House Speaker John Boehner? Yeah, me neither. Either result makes me queasy.

I will vote in 2012 for President. And I will vote for my Governor. But for Congress? Call me back when Democracy is fixed. I won’t hold my breath.

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