Term Limits: Limiting Liberty Through Captivity

Written by Laine McKay Norton

Term limits for United States Congressmen prohibit liberty for the voters who are being represented. In both the 1994 U.S. Term Limits V. Hill and the 1995 U.S. Term Limits V. Thornton cases, the United States Supreme Court ruled Arkansas Constitutional Amendment 73 unconstitutional. This amendment created 3 term limits of representatives and 2 term limits for senators. In 2015, Arkansas got a D- grade on their State Integrity Investigation performed by The Center for Public Integrity, and ranked 46th in the “legislative accountability” category. Arkansas has recently had two senators, two education officials, two former senators, and four associates to the legislature have been on trial for corruption. This state that has term limits has proved that they are not effective in dismantling corruption and increasing the responsibility to the people of the legislature.

Abraham Lincoln explained America as “government of the people, by the people [and] for the people…”. In the mixed form of government of the United States, the Congress is the democracy aspect. A democracy reflects the pure intentions of the people, so when a congressman is in office for a large amount of time, the people want him there, and if they did not, then the would not reelect him. This is just as Lincoln envisioned, “government of the people.” A politician who is not limited by a number of terms may not make good decisions that reflect his constituents, but he will try to keep his approval rating high so that he can be re-elected. On the contrary, a politician who has reached the end of his allotted time in office, thus not having to worry about reelection or approval ratings.

Career politicians are not inherently bad. George Washington was a farmer and only entered into public service when the public demanded it. James Madison was elected to the Orange County Committee of Safety right after college and spent the rest of his life in public service. Both the farmer and career politician were essential to the success of the Constitutional Convention. This is not to say that there are not bad career politicians. Just as some doctors, lawyers, and realtors are bad so are some career politicians. Someone who is truly a bad politician, hungry for control and recognition will not be stopped when the public or the Constitution says that they should stop. During the Second Continental Congress, debated constantly came up about the length and term of a president. Rodger Sherman from Connecticut said, “As the Executive Magistrate is not re- eligible, he will be on good behavior as far as will be necessary. If he behaves well he will be continued; if otherwise displaces, on a succeeding election.” As explained by Sherman, if a politician deems it necessary to be good to get re elected then he will be, but if he can make a bad decision and then run for a different office then he will probably choose the latter. A politician who runs out of terms in the House can move on to the Senate, executive or judicial departments or become a lobbyist or bureaucrat. If there is a potentially bad career politician, why would you want him to jump around from office, spreading corruption and bad policies into all areas of the government instead of keeping it at bay in one office?

Although new faces do bring new ideas, a politician is not able to be an expert in his office if he is not in it for long. Presidents and CEOs of successful companies have often been in the business for a long time to learn the inner workings of the market. Not every politician will be a career politician, therefore there will always be new thoughts and new legislation on different issues brought to the table by freshman Congressmen. Long term politicians are able to perfect their art and grow to learn their constituents, and if the people who they are representing do not feel like they are doing a good job anymore, then they will not reelect him. If they do, then it is a reflection of democracy, just as the Founding Fathers intended.

The approval rating of Congress is at a staggering low, but the approval of individual Congressmen is high. This shows that citizens like their guy, but not the other guy. They want to limit the other guy by putting him by limiting his liberty by putting him into captivity. Once given to one, captivity spreads to all. Term limits may be good for getting a bad politician out of office, but a good one will be held captive because of term limits. If a senator is successful in the Senate in sponsoring good legislation, why would you want to limit him? He may not be as successful in the House or executive branch or judiciary. If he does jump around to different offices, then a career politician has just been created. “Term limits for Congress” is one of the highest positive poll responses with 70- 85% for them. This raises the thought that America is then full of people who want to put others in bondage by limiting their representation. Captivity snuffs out the fire of liberty. Wanting to limit a bad Congressman does not keep the principles of the original principles of a Republic. Whatever limits are on the bad will still apply to the good.

Problems in Washington will not be fixed by getting someone out of office. The swamp will not be drained by one single issue. The corruption will last and the bad policies will still last. The founding fathers themselves turned down the idea of term limits. The Articles of Confederation kept representatives to three terms in a six year period. “No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years.” When commissioned to revise the Articles of Confederation, the Founding Fathers did not include term limits in the new document. Some members of the Second Continental Congress did believe in a “rotation in office,” but with no term limits, a rotation would still occur, just not a forced one. Members of Congress rotate through office when the people want them to.

The Founding Fathers did create term limits, every two years for a Representative, six years for a Senator, four years for the president, and good behavior for supreme court justices. These term limits keep the integrity of America’s “mixed form of government,” and keep people out of captivity and in liberty instead.

 

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