Throw the bums out, install term limits! Citizen legislators, not career politicians! These sayings and more take disgruntled voters on an emotional ride toward the idea that term limits are the answer for stopping career politicians from serving in Congress.
It sounds good to the ear. We have members of Congress serving for 20, 30, and 40 years plus. These entrenched members ignore their Oath of Office and spend their lives bringing largess back to their constituents while bowing to the demands of lobbyists and special interest groups (like their political party). Obviously it is a major problem and there must be an answer to solving it so groups like U.S. Term Limits and others are sharing their answer, make it law people can serve only so long in the U.S. Congress. The reasoning behind their answer seems sound enough yet what are the ramifications and is there a better answer?
Watching this emotional plea and seeing all the time, money and effort going into this campaign to pass term limits into law for the U.S. Congress is like watching history repeat itself. This is the same type of emotional, reactionary plea that brought the idea of directly electing U.S. Senators to fruition in the 17th Amendment to our Constitution. We altered our form of government because the people were told it would end corruption in the selection process of senators.
Too few considered the ramifications. The 17th Amendment further silenced the states’ voice and created a façade of bicameralism. It ended the check and balance nature of the U.S. Congress. Local self-government was weakened while democracy, with its inherent history of failure, grew. While dragging us away from republicanism toward representative democracy it also failed miserably in ending corruption. Those supporting the amendment did not educate the electorate about their ability to change their state legislators who were creating the problems of senatorial corruption.
Fast forward to the movement to make laws limiting terms and we see there is not a single mention to the fact term limits were built into the Constitution. Listening to any group or politician supporting the notion of term limits there is not a word spoken regarding the root problem of having a party caucus system entrenched inside our Legislative Branch. There is also no mention of the potential problems;
- Permanent ‘lame ducks’ in office throwing their votes at their factional agenda.
- Further ignorance of the Constitution’s solution.
- Removal of the voice of the electorate.
These challenges will cause our posterity to understand term limits was a bad idea, just as we understand the 17th Amendment was a bad idea. Reactionary laws or amendments succeed in changing our form of government rather than restoring our form of government. Emotionally it feels good today yet the damage to our Constitution slowly reveals the fact it violates sound governing principles that lead toward freedom rather than subjugation. It removes power from the people under the guise of doing us good. This notion of legislating term limits directly violates the principle of education as the source for correcting the problem of career politicians, and it is a problem. Jefferson enlightens us on these types of ideas that sound good on the surface;
“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” (Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 28 September 1820)