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Celebrating “Term Limits Day”

Celebrating “Term Limits Day”

February 27th was “Term Limits Day”.  It is not an official national holiday – although maybe it should be.  It is the day that the folks trying to place term limits on members of Congress – and others – have selected as a time to promote the idea.  

Most folks are probably unaware of Term Limits Day – or even the progress that movement has been making around the country.  In fact, a number of states and municipalities have already limited the terms of office for governors, state legislators, and others.  Not yet Congress, however.

February 27th was selected as the unofficial day-of-observance because that is the day that the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was officially ratified by the states, limiting the President of the United States to two terms.  

The resolution was passed by Congress in a bipartisan vote and sent to the states for ratification.  It was enacted in 1947 as a direct result of President Franklin Roosevelt’s unprecedented election to four terms – although he only lived out a few months of that fourth term.  Roosevelt was the first President to ignore President Washington’s admonition to step down after two terms.  After Washington, six two-term presidents had declined to run for a third term citing his example.

Leaders of both political parties recognized that Roosevelt had amassed too much authoritarian power.  He was even referred to as “America’s first dictator.”

Those close enough to know the facts were aware that even as Roosevelt campaigned for a fourth term, he was terminally ill – a dead man walking.  He would not survive the first year of his new term.  The American people were deceived by a cabal of folks surrounding Roosevelt for the purpose of maintaining power.  

Term limits push against that old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  And it does not just happen to presidents.  Recently, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – a member of the Daley political machine — stepped down amid scandals after serving 49 years in the legislature and 38 years as Speaker of the House.  His power is now seen as the reason for Illinois’ history of corrupt politics and policies.

Political longevity was the reason that all those racist Democrat Senators and House members were able to maintain the most powerful legislative chairmanships in Congress.  It was the reason that Chicago’s Richard J. Daley was referred to as “da boss” rather than “the mayor.”  In fact, virtually all the corrupt political machines – James Prendergast in Kansas City, Missouri, James Curley in Boston and Robert Byrd in West Virginia– maintained corrupt power by relying on longevity in office.

Democrat politicians hate term limits because they are the party of power – and term limits prevent them from establishing the long-held seats necessary to amass power.  Some Republicans opposed term limits because they believe in the absolute right of the voters to decide when a person should leave office.   

That is a worthy sentiment, but I think the late Don Rumsfeld expressed that position in his inimitable way.   Looking at the modern political environment, he said that “terms limits are a bad idea that’s time has come.”  Indeed, it has.

Democrat and Republican politicians also oppose term limits because they want to stay on the lucrative public payroll forever.  That is why it is so difficult to get Congress to pass the required resolution for a constitutional Amendment.  You see the problem when you look at those members of Congress who pledge to self-limit – and brushed aside that pledge after they serve the limited time.  That is the intoxication –corruption – of power.  

BUT … the ability to manipulate the powers of public office to ensure repeated election victories is the Achilles Heel of democracy.  Democracy draws its strength from refreshing the political class periodically with new ideas – and by eliminating those who use “institutional memory” to game the system.  We have all seen the high-minded freshman officeholder evolve into a self-centered politician as the years roll by.  That is what term limits are designed to prevent.  

And remember, our nation’s Founders intended for public service in the various legislatures – including Congress – to be a part-time service, not a professional career.

If Congress will not limit itself, how does it get done?

Weeell… there is another way to enact a constitutional amendment.  It had never been done before.  It is called “a convention of states.”  If Congress will not pass a constitutional resolution amendment to be considered by the states, then the states, themselves, can convene a convention to pass such amendments.

In case you had not noticed, five states have passed resolutions calling for a convention limited specifically to Congressional term limits and 17 have called for multi-subject conventions that include Congressional term limits. Two-thirds of the states, or 34, are required to apply for a convention for it to be called into existence. 

Just imagine.  If we had had such a limitation in the Constitution, all those powerful Washington politicians would have been gone into retirement years ago.  No more Biden. No more Schumer.  No more McConnell.  No more Pelosi.  No more McCarthy.  And no more of virtually all the old guard.  The average age of our leaders would be more like 55 than in the late 70s.

I rarely use my commentary to promote a specific organization.   But I believe that term limits are essential to the preservation of the American democracy. So… U.S. Term Limits is the organization that helped pass term limits on 15 state legislatures in the 1990s and is concentrating on Congress today. For more information, see www.termlimits.com or email Philip Blumel at [email protected] 

This is one cause that every voting American … Republican or Democrat … conservative or liberal … can get behind.  It is a bipartisan people’s movement that you should support.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry HoristLarry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

3 Comments

  1. John J

    AGE limits for ALL elected and appointed offices are what is needed, we don’t need any more senile used to be’s collecting pay checks and making important decisions when they can’t change their own shitty drawers, like Ginsberg, she was useless for a decade before she died

  2. Andrew Robinson

    Add publicly funded campaigns to the necessary step if term limits. 2 terms for Senate and 4 terms for the House. 12 year limit on federal public elected office total to avoid a jump from the house to the senate. Remove elected officials obligation to corporate or other lobby interests and their need to start fundraising as soon as they get elected and you will see a sea change in the political discourse including who runs for office.

  3. Tom Williams

    We definitely need limits for the Supreme Court. Make it 20 years or 15 or whatever. And make sure they need 2/3 confirming on BOTH the Senate and House. Age limits on Federal legislature and President are needed because we need people with clear heads leading us.
    Also think we need to raise voting age back to 21 because I remember how clueless I was at age 18. In addition, make the right to vote an EARNED one rather than age-based. First make the prospective voter earn his or her franchise through public service of some sort. Military, Peace Corps, Red Cross, etc. Second, make sure that each voter is tested for sanity. We have enough nut bags running stuff as it is.