Daily, on social media, I see things that just really make me scratch my head. Obvious things may come to mind like breatharians (people who believe that they can survive without food) or the Flat Earth Society (that's right, people you believe the Earth is flat), but I am not talking about those things. I expect the crazy in an unfiltered medium where anyone can get on-line, chat and hook-up with someone who is equally crazy. No, I am talking about bad ideas, specifically, term limits.
Term limits, to put it lightly, is a very bad idea that has legs. The idea of limiting the terms of members of Congress became very popular during the 1990's when incumbents were reelected at a rate of 100%. Term limits is when you put a limit to the amount of years or terms a political office holder can hold that office. They are usually passed when a group of people, either from one part of the country or in a particular party, don't like the choices that the other side is making, so they try to limit the amount of time their elected officials can hold office. US Presidents serving two terms was only a tradition for over a century set in place by our first president, George Washington. President Grant, our 18th President, was the first to break tradition and actually try to run for a third term, but he lost the nomination of his party to James Garfield. It wasn't until President Franklin Roosevelt, our 32nd President, was inaugurated for a third and a fourth term that anyone officially broke this tradition. He died during his fourth term so we don't know if he ever would have attempted to run for more. During his fourth term, his opponent in his last election, Thomas Dewey, proposed an Amendment to the Constitution to limit the terms of the presidency. Since both houses of Congress was controlled by the Republicans, it was passed and completely ratified by 1951. It took a total of seven years for the 22nd Amendment to be passed.
Since then many Presidents have had to stepped down after two terms. Among them were Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, W. Bush and Obama. Truman was grandfathered in so the law didn't apply to him but he decided not to run for a third term on his own. Supporters of term limits would argue, aren't you glad that the law prevented Reagan or W. from run for a third term. I say, no, I am glad they didn't get a third term, but I think it should be the voters or the candidate to decide this, not the law. I also think that having Obama as President for a third term would be much better than having Trump as President. I find it frustrating that I didn't get a chance to vote for him again. Since I have already stated, in prior blog entries, that I'd support Zippy the Pinhead over Donald Trump, so this is probably obvious. Any of our prior Presidents having a third term would be better than Trump serving even one term. Maybe even W. At least we'd be getting someone with some experience. I digress.
The idea of Congressional term limits angers me in particular. As a Vermonter, I am very much over-represented in Congress. I have two great Senators in Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and my Congressman, Peter Welch, is proving to be very effective. Why should I lose them? Because someone in Indiana or Florida thinks they are dead weight? Isn't that for the voters of Vermont to decide? If they weren't doing a good job, we'd vote for another candidate. That's called a Representative Democracy. Term limits is the antithesis to Democracy. You don't like some Congressman in another state ... tough! Adults deal with these things.
Every time I see someone stumping for Congressional term limits, it is never their own representation that they are complaining about, but someone else's. It is someone in Rhode Island complaining about a Georgia or Texan representative or it is someone in South Carolina complaining about New York and California. Never their own. We have a process to get rid of dead weight and under performing politicians ...again, it is called an election.
Lets apply this logic to other occupations, lets try brain surgeons. After eights years of you developing your skills as a surgeon ... sorry, you can't be a brain surgeon anymore. After twenty years or so, our society would have no skilled brain surgeons. Bad analogy? Bad example? A politician is not as skill an occupation as a brain surgeon? Sure, but it is still a very skilled occupation. If you think Congress is dysfunctional now, imagine if it were filled with freshman Congressmen. Imagine a legislative body with no institutional memory.
In one of Vonnegut's novels, I believe it was Slapstick, he came up with a solution to our democratic woes. Our leaders were chosen at random, in a lottery, to ensure that no one who wanted the job would get it, because anyone who wanted it was surely insane therefore unqualified. It is an absurd idea in an absurdist work, but it always made me think ... hmm. Surely any random person would be a better selection than Trump. Right? Maybe so. But would they be better Senators than Bernie Sanders or Patrick Leahy, I think not. Surely, our election process has produced more good statesmen than bad. The bad just get more press. Until the Vonnegut method takes hold, keep your term limits off of my candidates and stop trying to suppress my vote.