Saturday, July 3, 2010

Term Limits

Slightly over two years ago, I walked around the house pulling the phones out of the wall. I got tired of people calling me and telling me how I should vote in the upcoming election. I still have a phone line, there are just no working phones in the house. Since then, it has been so peaceful that I’m considering chopping down the mailbox.

I doubt if this would work. Lately politicians have been knocking on our front door. I probably wouldn’t mind if we didn’t have such a sorry herd of candidates. Almost anyone could dig a pit somewhere out in the desert and catch a better crop by accident. Failing this, there seems to only one possible solution to chase the foxes out of the henhouse: term limits.

But aren’t term limits a violation of my freedom of …of …something, perhaps speech? Probably. The whole idea of term limits seem to be that every individual believes he or she alone can be trusted to vote correctly and everyone else is a moron. I don’t think I have ever heard someone lament, “Help! Stop me before I vote again!”

Term limits have been around a very long time. (Do you feel a history lesson coming on?) Ancient Greece placed a limit of two single year terms on a member of the council, while Rome put a limit of one term for a Consul. Both civilizations then barred those politicians from ever holding office again. If we practiced such a system, most of our politicians would be thrown out of office before they could figure out who paid the best bribes.

And term limits have frequently been the case south of the border- a region that has experienced far too many individuals wanting to be President-For-Life. Latin American constitutions frequently limit presidents to a single term, and newly elected presidents just as frequently ignore this. Both Cuba and Venezuela used to have such a provision….

Mexico has had such a limitation since the Constitution of 1917 was written, and no president has successfully broken this tradition. The one president who sat out a term and ran again was assassinated before his inauguration. Assassination might seem a somewhat draconian solution to term limits, but no one can doubt its effectiveness.

For six years, the president of Mexico has almost unlimited power, in the not too distant past, he could even select the next president. The only power absolutely denied to the president for the last hundred years has been reelection. Perhaps Mexico doesn’t actually have a president: this system has been more appropriately called a six year monarchy.

Obviously, this system wouldn’t work in America; we certainly don’t want to give our politicians more authority. Giving more power to elected officials would be as dangerous as giving a wino $50 all at once. You could kill him.

It’s not like term limits have never been tried in the United States. William Penn wrote them into the Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties back in 1682. More recently, in 1951 the 22nd Amendment passed, limiting presidential terms to two. Since then, there has been little traction in passing some form of term limit for national office. This explains why the turnover rate in the U. S. House of Representatives is 7%, only slightly better than the 5% turnover rate for the British House of Lords, whose members serve for life.

I asked a friend, a veteran of Chicago politics, what he thought of political term limits. Horrified, he said, “Absolutely not! Let them serve their full term just like any other prisoner.”

This was an innocent mistake, as my friend probably thought that every state used the “Chicago Term Limits Plan.” This is a simple system, one every state should adopt. From now on, all politicians shall be limited to two terms. The first in office. The second in jail.

1 comment:

  1. Nelson Lee WalkerJuly 3, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    Here’s a practical Tea Party type strategy to create a “Citizen Congress”

    A Congress of career politicians will never represent “We the People”, because their highest priority is getting reelected with the help of Big Money.

    But “We the People” have more votes than “Big Money” has, and thus can end Congress as a career for professional politicians by never reelecting incumbents.

    We can impose single terms every two years, by never reelecting Congress.

    Always vote, but only for challengers. Never reelect incumbents.

    Keep this up until Congress is mostly “one-termers”, a citizen Congress.

    Then keep it up every election, to make a citizen Congress a permanent reality.

    Every American’s only intelligent choice is to never reelect anyone in Congress!

    The only infallible, unstoppable, guaranteed way to get a truly new Congress,

    and a cleaned up new politics is


    Nelson Lee Walker of