November 16, 2015

Term Limits: Why?

“Term limits are always popular until they find out, you know, who’s not term-limited: lobbyists. And guess who's in charge in every state legislature that has term limits in this country--the un-term-limited lobbyists are . . . term limits--I bought into it until I saw that happen.”
                                                         --Chuck Todd, 10/21/2016

"How Term Limits Turn Legislatures Over to Lobbyists
 "The next time you hear some TV pundit proclaiming the 'solution' to the 'problem' of Mitch McConnell or Dianne Feinstein being in office too long, consider their real agenda..."
                                                   --Thom Hartmann, 9/1/2023

“Chris Hayes noted, ‘you can’t do a term limit without a constitutional amendment so it’s a non-starter.’ He is correct that constitutional scholars agree that term limits would require an amendment.
“And I’d go further than Chris and say term limits are an actively bad idea. They’re the kind of thing that’s appealing as a last resort to an enormously frustrated electorate, but it’s merely nostalgia for a citizen legislature that never existed, where yeomen farmers would serve their country in Congress and then return to the fields. In reality, in states with term limits, politicians just race up the ladder as fast as possible and then when they’re termed out, they cash in as lobbyists. It makes the swamp swampier rather than draining it.”

                                –Ryan Grim, Intercept newsletter, 10/5/23

Term limits are a natural expression of the right's government-bashing ideology. It serves them well to eject elected officials before they are experienced and secure enough to challenge the orthodoxy of entrenched special interests.

What motivates some of my allies on the left to embrace term limits? Are we willing to sacrifice the likes of Elijah Cummings, John Lewis, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, or Sheldon Whitehouse? We revere Elijah Cummings and John Lewis for their service. Term limits would have ended their careers years ago. What better way to discourage ordinary citizens from a career in public service than to preordain their firing?

Shouldn't we be countering the contempt for "career politicians" by asking how democracy can survive without them? How many working people--perhaps with families to support--can afford to interrupt their nonpolitical careers for only a limited period of public service? This country needs *more* career politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elijah Cummings, and John Lewis.

Here’s to a more targeted attack (Primary them!) on politicians who don’t serve the people. Those who do deserve our loyalty. And, as a reader noted, we already have term limits; they're called elections.

Try this thought experiment. Imagine saying to your favorite legislators, "Thanks for your service but... you're fired."