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For Discussion: Against Term Limits

By Adam de Angeli

[Note 12/24: This is my take on this issue; what is yours?]

Liberty’s compass says term limits are bad—after all, they are basically taking away your right to hold office—but they can be seductive when you have a long-seated politician you can’t pry out of the seat.

I should know—my Congressman, John Dingell, is the longest-serving Representative in the House. Since 1955—decades longer than I’ve even been alive!—the man has been destroying liberty and taking people’s money. He’s the sponsor of the government take-over of medicine, and he sponsored the omnibus food regulation bill, too. That’s just what he’s done in one year.

He’s so entrenched that the GOP hasn’t run a serious campaign against him in decades. Every subsequent election, his grip on the seat hardens. When he retires, I won’t be surprised if his son runs, and uses his father’s yard signs.

Against this, what can you do but change the rules and prohibit politicians from serving more than a few terms?

Not so fast.

Who else has served in Congress for decades? Ron Paul. That at least proves there is one downside. But to really see the problem, look to—what else—the state of Michigan.

Michigan has very short term limits, two four-year terms for the Senate and three two-year terms for the House. Guess what that means? Except those seeking higher office, half of the Senate and a third of the House is completely unaccountable to the voters! True, it’s slightly less because some lose or retire before they make it to their last possible term, but not very. Presently, 35 of 110 House representatives are in their 3rd and final term, and 29 of 38 Senators are serving their 2nd and final term!

For any bill to become law requires the support of Senators who actually believes in our cause to vote for it. Then consider that half opposes our cause, most of the others can be bought off, and you see how difficult this becomes.

“Lame duck” is a misleading term. Not being allowed to run in the next season just leaves the politician free to do whatever he wishes. Many wish to buy themselves a great future job by giving the taxpayers’ money to a lucky corporation. That might make them unpopular with the public, but they don’t need to care. And being politicians interested in power, few do.

Understand this clearly: term limits take away a politician’s accountability to the voters.

It’s at least arguable that if term limits were much higher, things would be much better. If you allowed six terms instead of two or three, a much lower percentage of the legislature would be in the term-limited class, and yeah, you would prevent guys like John Dingell from staying in power for decades. Maybe that’s why six is the upper bound of term limits in the U.S., with most states that have them being 2-4 terms. None have 1-term limits, interestingly. If one did, it might suddenly become obvious why term limits are dangerous.

But even limited to six terms, well first of all, Ron Paul would have been limited out of Congress in 2000. The Ron Paul 2008 campaign still wouldn’t have existed. Dingell would have been out before I was born, but you know what? I don’t think it would be in any better hands anyway.

And John Dingell isn’t in the seat because he’s gotten more popular and powerful every year. He’s in the seat because there hasn’t been any serious opposition to him in decades. That’s the political balance of the district. If he’d been term-limited to six, we could have had five other Democrats in the seat. Big deal.

Term limits are an attack on Liberty, and they make our efforts more difficult. The compass was right.

View the original article at Campaign for Liberty

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Posted in Campaign for Liberty, Government, Politics.

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