Term Limits, The Trojan Horse For Conservatives

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Conservatives and liberals are locked in a prolonged battle for the heart and soul of this country. Conservatives are like the city of Troy, while liberals are akin to the invading army. Just as the citizens of Troy had a defensible wall that enabled them to survive, so likewise, America has a wall that has protected it from major governmental transformation. We call that wall the Constitution.

For years, liberals have been fighting to expand the scope of Government. Liberals will not be content until the United States is a socialistic democracy.

Conservatives are tired of the constant attacks. They are tired of watching politicians leave Washington after several decades of public service – multimillionaires. They are tired of their politicians serving special interests.

For many conservatives, the answer is term limits. They hope by initiating term limits upon politicians that the liberties contained in the Constitution will be preserved.

Founding Fathers and Term Limits

Conservatives need to understand that the Founding Fathers did not put term limits into the Constitution intentionally. Prior to the U.S. Constitution, the colonies were covered by the Articles of Confederation. The Articles had term limits. A member of the Continental Congress could only serve for three years out of every six years.

James Madison and other Founding Fathers experienced firsthand the consequences of term limits. They expressly argued that term limits should not be in the Constitution.

Term Limits are not the solution. In fact, term limits will only further destroy the Constitution that conservatives desire to protect. Do you really think that term limiting Nancy Pelosi is going to mean that San Francisco’s new congressman is going to be any less of a socialist? If you want to change the political ideology of the congressman from San Francisco, you need to re-educate the people as to what it means to live in a society of limited government and personal freedom.

Term limits are the lazy man’s escape from doing the hard work of being a missionary of conservative principles into liberal areas.

The Trojan Horse – Lobbyist and Bureaucrats Grow Stronger

Several states have enacted some sort of term limits. However, in those states that have enacted term limits, the people have not benefited by term limits. In fact, in many states, the people have been some of the biggest losers as a result of term limits.

One of the side-effects of term limits is that the lobbyist gains more power. Lobbyists gain more power because every open election creates the opportunity for the lobbyist to pour millions of dollars to select the next legislator. The lobbyist makes sure that the candidate who will do their bidding receive the lion share of campaign donations.

Another side-effect is that the government bureaucrats become more powerful. The complexities of state government (let alone federal government) take years to master. If you are constantly bringing new politicians into government, there is no time for politicians to become subject matter experts. These new politicians are reliant upon bureaucrats to give them the information that they need. Of course, bureaucrats have one main goal, to expand their influence.

It is difficult to get rid of entrenched politicians. These politicians have high name recognition. Even though public perception of Congress is low, politicians continue to get elected. However, the answer to politicians constantly being reelected is not accepting the trojan horse of term limits.

The Solution

Rather than term limits, I would suggest a Constitutional Amendment that for every year a politician has held Federal office or a Federal appointment, they must obtain that percentage of signatures from registered voters for the office they seek prior to putting their name on the ballot. To make it even more interesting, these signatures must be gathered in a three-month window.

By way of illustrations, Ted Cruz, a U.S. Senator for four years would need 9,262,265 signatures. (231,556,622 registered voters nationwide multiplied by 4% for 4 years of Federal Service). Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi would have had to obtain 127,192 signatures within the California Congressional District 12 (454,257 registered voters multiplied by 28 years of Federal service). In Vermont, Patrick Leahy would have had to obtain 198,080 registered Vermont signatures (471,619 register voters multiple by 42 years of Federal service).

This solution protects our Founder’s intent and actually makes it harder for incumbents to be reelected. Term limits is a slippery slope that gives more power to the lobbyist. If you want to continue down the path of crony capitalism, go ahead and accept the trojan horse. However, if America wants to remain a Constitutional Republic, we must create a hurdle for incumbents that ensures the people really want them in Federal office.

  • interesting perspective.

    • Jim Anderson

      In your analysis of the Founding Fathers, you failed to reference Thomas Jefferson, who was the most outspoken on the subject of Term Limits. He viewed such a safeguard limiting re-election, which was called “rotation in office” at the time, to be a “necessity” to the new democracy. Jefferson was convinced that once a person was elected to office, he would “always be re-elected, if the Constitution permits it.”

      Jefferson’s views directly answered those current politicians such as Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), who regularly say that there is no need for term limits because the people can simply vote members out any time they wish. In 1787, Jefferson wrote that the power of voters to turn members out of office was not effective. He concluded that the ability to remove a person running for re-election “is a power which will not be exercised.” He also added that given such facts, term limits would be the “only effectual preventative.” History has certainly proven Jefferson correct . This is reflected in the fact that upwards of 95% of federal officials running for re-election are regularly returned to office, representing some of the highest such rates in the world.

      George Washington set the correct example by voluntarily limiting his service as president to two terms. Similar restrictions should be adopted by all elected members of the legislative branch– 2 terms for Senators, and 3 terms for Representatives.

  • RcGeil

    While some may see the comparison from the Articles of Confederation as appropriate, I don’t think the 3 out of 6 was the correct formula. 12 years of “service” (I’ll be polite) in any office is plenty… period. Politicians should go home and live with the rules they have placed on the rest of us. Their salaries should be minimal and paid by the States they represent, and no retirement pensions should be allowed. Go home and go to work should be the model… Without having to bother us with signing any more petitions. The Lobbyist problem would go away when we re-establish the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause That would put the power that DC abuses back into the States domain and Mr/Mrs Lobbyist would have to go to state capitols, yes even the Podunk ones, to try to be effective… Only one was to pass the Amendments we need… Congress won’t do it…

  • Free2Choose

    This is a very interesting article. I like that you researched why the framers did not put term limits in the Constitution.
    For term limits, on one hand we worry about lobbyists and on the other hand, how easy is it for people to get fake signatures like they already do for the ballot initiatives. Or I worry about fraud where they get real signatures one year and resuse the list of signatures?

  • 11oclockticktock

    Your first three paragraphs don’t have anything to do with your thesis. Is there a reason you chose to start this essay by pissing off half the populace? Did you want them to get offended and leave so you won’t have any differing view point? Or was it to appeal to your conservative chums? You want to make sure they know you’re for real? Either way, it’s irresponsible writing. You could have explained your idea, which is interesting, without the vitriol.

  • microace

    I can see some of your arguments, although I really think the reason the Founders did not put term limits in is because they saw the job as serving your Country, there were no career politicians and they didn’t get paid much to be there. Most were worrying about their crops, businesses, and family back home and could not wait to get back. Lobbyists didn’t exist back then, well they probably did but not to the extent we have them now. It seems to me the better solution would be to get rid of lobbyists. Some will say then the people would have no say because we are lobbyists when we contact our elected officials but I’d say not really, if we voted for them they work for us and we should have a say in how they do their job, unfortunately most of them think they work for the lobbyists and many unfortunately do.