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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not So Fast on Term Limits

By Douglas V. Gibbs
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The idea of term limits for Congressional members has been a popular topic of late, and one that President Donald Trump touched on during the presidential campaign season of 2016.  In the Articles of Confederation the Founding Fathers put in place term limits, limiting representatives to three one-year terms in any six-year period.

When it came time to write the U.S. Constitution a decade later, however, the framers decided to leave term limits out of the American System.  They had once agreed with them, and tried them, but found that term limits did not curb corruption as they had hoped, and instead limited good men who could do great things if they only had the time.  Term limits also made the citizens less interested in being informed because the bad ones would be gone in a few terms, anyway.

James Madison wrote that term limits might actually lead to government dysfunction. He wrote that frequent elections were a better check on power than forcing legislators out of office by law.

In other words, the best term limits are those applied by the voters who, if informed and virtuous, will vote out the problematic representatives, and retain those who are beneficial and abide by the U.S. Constitution.

The better check against corruption in government, argued the anti-term limits forces in the Constitutional Convention (according to Madison's Notes), are regular elections by the people.  And, as seen under the Articles of Confederation, restrictions of the terms of legislators created their own problems.

In Federalist Paper #53 James Madison explained that the higher proportion of new representatives swept into office due to term limits could lead to poor decisions and corruption from a wave of inexperienced legislators.

He wrote, the “greater the proportion of new members, and the less the information of the bulk of the members, the more apt will they be to fall into the snares that may be laid for them.”

In other words, inexperience equals gullibility.

This is not to say that in all instances term limits are not a good thing.  The 22nd Amendment limits the President to two terms.  The restriction on the President of the United States is necessary to protect us from an ever-expanding executive branch becoming a permanent position as we would see in a monarchy.

In the City of Murrieta back 2010 the voters enacted term limits that calls for no more than two consecutive terms.  This disallows candidates from using the incumbent label after two terms, since they have to take at least a two year break before running for office again.

At the State level in California, however, term limits has been disastrous, forcing popular legislators out of office, and enabling Marxists to fill the positions with ease.

The rise of Donald Trump, and the unpopularity of Congress, is likely to reignite the conversation regarding term limits, since the voters are beginning to feel like they need to reassert their authority to throw the bums out of Congress.  Rather than institute an already failed system of term limits, why don't they just do their job and actually throw the bums out?

Besides, term limits don't address where the real professional politicians exist.  The staffers, and other non-elected bureaucrats, don't have to worry about the wrath of the voters, or any term limit rule changes.  They go from politician to politician, advising him or her on the way things are done in Washington, and reading bills for them and explaining it to them so that the Congress Critters don't have to read them for themselves.  Are we supposed to be so naive to believe that the bureaucrats don't have an agenda?  Are they being honest with the politicians they are working with?

Staffers and non-government agencies actually run the government.  In a sense, the administrators make up a phantom fourth branch of government.  So, while we think we should be all in for term limits, how about we not chase after the symptom, and go straight to the source of the problem in Washington?  How about we target the permanent political class that few people even think about?  They are ignored or unseen because they reside safely behind the curtain, behind the scenes, and out of sight.  If we instill term limits, the bureaucrats would actually be emboldened, because they would no longer need to deal with salty politicians aware of their games, giving them more power because convincing a Congress of newbies to do as they are told would be much easier.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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