Term limits sound good. Are they?
The Articles of Confederation had term limits, but the Constitution of 1787 did not. Why?
The framers knew term limits did more harm than good:
– Gouverneur Morris: “The ineligibility proposed by the [terms limitation] clause as it stood tended to destroy the great motive to good behavior, the hope of being rewarded by a re-appointment. It was saying to him, ’make hay while the sun shines.’”
– Madison’s notes at the Constitutional Convention, 1787
– Alexander Hamilton: “Nothing appears more plausible at first sight, nor more ill-founded upon close inspection [than term limits]…. One ill effect of the exclusion would be a diminution of the inducements to good behavior. There are few men who would not feel much less zeal in the discharge of a duty when they were conscious that the advantage of the station with which it was connected must be relinquished at a determinate period, than when they were permitted to entertain a hope of obtaining, by meriting, a continuance of them.”
– Federalist, #72
Under term limits, members of Congress in their final term would have no incentive to be responsive to constituents, greatly increasing the influence of lobbyists. If you think Congress is corrupt, just wait for term limits!
Knowing the dangers of a lame duck session of congress, imagine the entire Congress in an endless state of lame duck.
Name one office with term limits that was subsequently filled with constitutional conservatives.
Term limits have been tried. This Chuck Todd video highlights some of the problems:
In short, if the goal is to hold politicians to the powers enumerated to them by the Constitution, there is no evidence to suggest that term limits would.
With 535 seats in Congress, 469 are up for election every two years. The majority of Congress could be fired every two years.
Our representatives are there because we elected them. WE allowed the “status quo.” The solution is an informed electorate willing to term limit any politician when necessary.
James Garfield, in a speech commemorating the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1876, said, “Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them….”
We are the key. We must meet candidates in our communities, coffee shops and churches. We must read their financial disclosures, learn if they cheat on their spouse, shake their hands and look in their eyes. Elect only honorable men and women, and, if scallywags slip past our renewed efforts at Due Diligence, we must turn them out of office.
This WE must do. Parchment barriers cannot.