Former US Congressman Joe Walsh talks about it often. Glenn Beck is a proponent. Illinois gubernatorial hopeful, Bruce Rauner inundates us with radio commercials with it as its main theme. Many agree with these men about it. What is it? Term limits.
It is often brought up that a founding father, Jefferson I believe, though it doesn’t really matter, expressed a vision of citizen politicians going to serve in the Congress for a term and then go home to live under the laws they helped craft. This little bit of trivia is spoken of as if term limits was an intent of the founders. I don’t know. I don’t think so, as there is nothing mentioning being forced out of office, while the desire to serve, and the public’s desire to see a politician’s service continue, might exist.
And that’s all that really matters, isn’t it? That is, the public’s right to choose its representatives is exactly what it means, under our form of government, to be self-governed.
I found http://restartcongress.org/revolution/arguments-for-term-limits/">a sitethat seeks to justify the call for term limits. It begins with several points put forth to argue for term limits, and follows up with objections to term limits, each with reasons the objections supposedly don’t work.
Right from the start, we can see that the arguments in favor do not ring true. That is to say, that the problems term limits are thought to correct are not truly corrected. Look at the first:
”With term limits in place, Congress will be more responsible toward their constituents because they will soon be constituents themselves. They will have to live under the laws they have created while in office.”
There is no one in Congress who isn’t already supposed to be living under the laws they have created. If they are not doing so now, how will term limits change that? I’m not certain, but aren’t they still citizens while also legislators? Are they somehow exempt while they are legislators from the laws they create? If so, I have to admit that I was totally unaware that politicians are above the law. If not, then we, as voters, should be paying attention and voting out those who think they are. Let’s look at another:
”Members of Congress will have less time in office to develop financially beneficial commitments to lobbyists and other special interest groups, thereby undermining the threat of lobbyists being a primary influence on legislation.”
No member of Congress should be beholden to anyone but their constituents, the people they were sent to Congress to represent. No lobbyist should have undue influence on our representatives and cannot have that influence without the representative granting that power to the lobbyist. If a member of Congress is acting based upon lobbyist influence, it should only be on the merits of the lobbyist’s proposals, assuming the proposals are in the best interests of the people the Congressman represents. The point above assumes lobbyist influence is always a negative for the people a Congressman represents. But not all lobbyists are crooked or nefarious. A lobbyist merely represents a group with shared interests and sometimes those interests are of benefit to all the Congressman represents. The question is whether or not the lobbyist represents an interest of general benefit to the people on the one side, and that the Congressman will not act without his constituency being properly served by the proposal of the lobbyist. Should a Congressman be found to legislate in a manner that serves the lobbyist (and the people he represents) at the cost of the Congressman’s constituents, the people should vote him out, if not have him prosecuted. Term limits will not prevent self-serving Congressman from allowing themselves to be unduly influenced by lobbyists who do not have the people’s best interest in mind.
In every case of the arguments in favor of term limits, the better remedy is a concerned electorate. Term limits will not stop any of the concerns it hopes to mitigate from happening.
At this point, I want to look at how this site deals with objections to term limits by using one example. First the objection:
”Term limits are not necessary because members of Congress must be regularly re-elected. If they are not doing a good job in office, we can simply vote for someone else.”
The response to this objection suggests that money is the key reason incumbents win re-election. It is not. The problem is still the voters. If an incumbent is not performing and still wins re-election, as did Barack Obama, it is because of an electorate that will not stay informed about how a politician is doing his job. Voter ignorance and apathy is the most important reason why all the ills term limits are meant to address exist in the first place. Very little will change by merely limiting the number of terms anyone can serve in a given office. When a bum is termed out, the same ignorant group of people will vote for the next bum the party puts forth to replace him. That is to say, if the majority of voters vote Democrat, for example, they won’t necessarily vote for the Republican next time around no matter how crooked the first guy was found to be. They’ll just assume the next Democrat will not be that crooked and vote Democrat again. Term limits solve nothing. Only an engaged and informed electorate can do that.