Term Limits For Everybody!
Term limits are a worthy goal. Many Americans agree. Polling again and again demonstrates that Americans want fresh faces representing them in our legislative branch.
In my experience, the Republican party and platform embraces term limits more wholeheartedly than Democrats, as term limits fit into the Republican philosophy of government by “outsiders” rather than “insiders” along with their consistent ragging against ‘career’ politicians.
Through a fair amount of conversations with conservative and Republican friends, family and associates, I’ve surmised there’s a general underlying belief that politics isn’t difficult, perhaps even easy common sense than regular salt of the earth folks understand. Therefore, a regular shifting of politicians in our capital won’t impact governance much.
Since I studied political science, I’m not too sympathetic to these arguments. However, many of these conservatives and Republicans are wary of power going to someone’s head and how many politicians mysteriously enrich themselves after years of ‘service.’
Most, including myself, can sympathize if not agree with these positions.
However, if you support term limits, especially institutionalizing them at a state or federal level, you need to walk the walk.
Take an example close to Wisconsinites, super close to those in Winnebago County and the city of Oshkosh.
For attendees and alumni of Lourdes High School, such as myself, he’s a man who has donated significant time and effort to our education.
In January 2022, Senator Ron Johnson decided to run for a third Senate term, contradicting his earlier pledges to step down after two and his extensive voting record for limiting U.S. Senators to two.
In the Senator’s view, the state of America is too perilous to risk falling to a Democratic majority. I’m not interested in the alarmist language- Democrats engage in it every election cycle as much as Republicans. But if politics aren’t difficult, even easy, as Republican politicians and voters assert, why can’t they pluck another candidate from the unknown in the same way Senator Johnson rocketed to the front of the pack in 2010?
How will we ever get term limits if their proponents cannot abide by their own standards? Are term limits simply convenient when applied to the opposing party?
Senator Johnson maintains a fairly admirable schedule of touring around the state in addition to legislating in Washington. You’re telling me out of 5.807 million Wisconsinites, he couldn’t find one worthy to carry out his work? When he decided to run this year, he admitted he didn’t find anyone worthy, despite the nature of politics being ‘easy and common sense.’
When you desire institutionalized change, you need to embody that change itself. How are we to take pledges such as term limits seriously when politicians who were elected on such pledges of not becoming “career politicians” become what they despised?
If Senator Johnson is elected again, he will serve the exact number of years as Russ Feingold, the man he ousted.
Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life. Aside from impeachment, no political mechanism can remove them once confirmed. In recent years, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and Stephen Breyer retired while both Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in office.
As I detailed in ‘Playing the SCOTUS game’ around RBG’s death, aspects of our electoral system remain unchanged from the colonial age, which had lower life expectancy, more primitive technology and no social media, promoting a divisive gamesmanship further sinking U.S. politics into a partisan hellhole.
Lifelong appointments made sense for the Founding Fathers.
Not so much for us.
For those who chafe at change, it’s worth remembering Senators were elected by state legislatures until the 17th Amendment in 1903 and the presidency had no term limits until the 22nd Amendment in 1951. For 175 years, Americans got lucky that no chief executive used their popularity to subvert the system to his whims.
It’s time for more tweaks.
Along with Congressional and Senatorial term limits, support is growing for Supreme Court limits.
In sales, we often say the best way to handle an objection is to not have them.
To avoid a polarized Congress and Supreme Court, to reduce corruption and to promote better governance, let’s go for term limits at all levels of our federal government.
Not when it’s convenient.
Not only for the other guys.