TERM LIMITS

Term limits for Congress is now the trendy idea of the moment. The best term limit is electing someone else, that is why we have elections. If you are not happy with your Congressperson than you, the voter, have the opportunity to make your feelings felt at the ballot box. Just because voters re-elect their local representative or their senator most of the time, that should not mean that you should scrap the system we have currently because some people don’t like the results of the elections. 

We, the voters, should make the distinction between making our elections more competitive, and requiring through a Constitutional Amendment that a Congressperson be termed out after they hold office for a certain length of time.

 

To solve the real problem of dysfunctional government, there are better alternatives other than term limits. What would make anyone think that term limits would improve the performance of our Congress?

Having politicians decide on drawing the districts for the state legislature and for Congressional districts is like giving the keys to the hen-house to a wolf. Politicians love to draw up districts that ensure that they will keep being elected, by the use of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering needs to end and California has shown the way on how to reform gerrymandering.

You make sure that the districts are competitive and geographically drawn and they should be drawn based upon some area of commonality between the voters of a certain area.

Another solution to the problem of good representation is to have campaign finance reform. England has a much better campaign season than the United States has. The election cycle is much shorter. We could have a 60 or 90 day election season. Sixty or ninety days should be a sufficient length of time for voters to make their choice.

One could argue that a year-long campaign provides voters a chance to see a candidate for who he or she is, but things are so well scripted, the only ones who seem to benefit are the campaign consultants and states like New Hampshire who really do meet the candidates. But a Presidential candidate is not running for President of New Hampshire, he is running to be President for the entire country.

In contrast to our past, Presidential election cycles now seem to begin when the last one has ended. This is not good for the body politic if campaigns are constant.

England has free television time, and no 30 second commercials for candidates. Do you really think you learn about who someone is, warts and all in a 30 second commercial with the emphasis on sound bites rather than substance.

England has honest to goodness debates, not some made for television imitation of a debate when the candidate is not required to think and in essence just repeats his campaign talking points.

Local and state elections in the United States can follow the English model but do so on the local and state level for elections involving the House of Representatives and for the U.S. Senate.

The most odious of campaign and election dysfunctional examples is the amount of money that we see spent in elections today. The amount spent is gross and wasteful.

Lobbyists and big money ensure that we the people are not heard because quite frankly, our elected officials or those who are new and running for office for the first time will listen more and be influenced greatly by their biggest financial contributors.

If you really want to deduce what the biggest problem in politics is all you have to do is follow the money.

The responsive nature of who we elect is effected the most by who gives them the most money. Our Supreme Court is not perfect and even though we should respect the court it is easy to understand we the people’s frustration with our election process when the court finds that a corporation is a person. Any wealthy donor or corporation who contributes a lot of money will have the ear of our elected officials a lot more than the people who our constitution states is who our representatives owe their allegiance to.

It is a delusion to believe that money does not do one heck of a lot of talking and influencing of our politicians. To think that term limits would provide a solution for that is but a pipe dream. All that term limits will guarantee is that they will be in office for a shorter time. They still would be influenced and corrupted by money.

There are other reasons more nuanced than the obvious reasons as to why term limits are a bad choice for reforming our system.

When the founders provided checks and balances to protect we the people, they had reasons for why the Senate was different from the House.

Noah Webster in, his letter entitled “A citizen of America,” was eloquent when he spoke of what makes the U.S. Senate so different and unique. Webster stated that, “besides, the design of a senate is not merely to check the legislative assembly, but to collect wisdom and experience.” Further he stated,” The House of Representatives may be composed of new and unexperienced members–strangers to the forms of proceedings, and the science of legislation. But either positive constitutions, or customs, which may supply their place, fill the senate with men venerable for age and respectability, experienced in the ways of men, and in the art of governing, and who are not liable to the bias of passions that govern the young.”
“Experience is the best instructor.”

Term limits would deprive us of experience and wisdom. Just when you’ve started to learn where the executive wash room is or how the appropriations committee works and the budget or the tax code, out you go. This is nothing but a recipe for incompetence.

If you could fix the gerrymandering and keep excessive money out of politics our representatives might just represent we the people instead of representing their biggest campaign contributors. Keeping representatives away from the corrupting influence of insider trading or the promise of a cushy job after their term in office is over would also keep our elected officials from straying from their responsibility to we the people.

Millionaires seem to occupy most of the seats in Congress now. We have a new form of aristocracy, where it is questionable as to who our representatives owe their allegiance to. Clearly they are not listening to the people. In poll after poll citizens have expressed their feelings on certain issues but are their representatives responding to how their constituents feel? No, but if Wall Street Banks or oil companies call our representatives on the phone, whose call do you think our representatives will answer first? You’ve got it, they will pick up the phone if their biggest contributor is on the line.

The elimination of safe districts is the key to positive change. Politicians first concern is to be re-elected. If their seat was not safe, they would have to compete and they would be forced to compromise.

For some, compromise might be a bad word, but if you have a Congress full of people unwilling to compromise you don’t have government you have chaos and potentially you have anarchy.

If one insists on having political parties with politicians grounded in ideology than we need to change our system from a representative system to a parliamentary system. This could be remedied by having the party in power have the legislature choose who would be President. But we chose not to have a parliamentary system when our country started. What we need to do is encourage reforms that would actually fix the problem instead of making a false choice that would guarantee nothing other than having people elected and in government who would not know how our system of government works and we would all suffer from the resulting incompetence.

Say no to term limits, and demand real reforms that will make a difference.

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