Term Limits

“Washington is a very easy city for you to forget where you came from and why you got there in the first place.”

Harry S Truman

“Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed regularly, and for the same reason.”

Old joke

By Ralph Echtinaw

I’ve never understood the mass appeal of term limits among the general population. Term limits are widely seen as a restriction on elected officials, and they are in the sense that officials are prohibited from seeking re-election after a certain number of years. But the primary restriction is on voters who are essentially told, “We know you like this guy and would re-elect him, but you don’t know what’s good for you so he isn’t on the ballot anymore.”

Yes, term limits are the stop-me-before-I-reelect-this-bum-again law. Support for term limits is a tacit admission that voters are too ignorant to know when an elected official has been captured by the system and cares about nothing but reelection and enriching himself.

Term limits are a sign that we, as an electorate, are so under informed (or uninformed) that we can’t tell the difference between honest, well-intentioned politicians and those who pretend to be honest well-intentioned politicians. We can’t even be trusted to reflexively vote against incumbents. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Folks rail against career politicians in general, then turn around and reelect their geriatric congressman who was first elected when American cars were built in America.

I’m not necessarily arguing against term limits. But isn’t it ironic that the best argument against term limits is an argument for term limits? It would go something like this: “Term limits are necessary to good government in a prosperous democracy because voters are too ignorant, distracted, disinterested and gullible to understand when an officeholder has become part of the problem. Too many voters are highly susceptible to smooth-talking candidates  who believe little of what they say. Yes, voters are the problem, and term limits is the only way to stop them from returning the same jokers to office over and over!”

We’re probably better off with term limits than without them, but they are a sign that we haven’t been paying attention. If voters had been doing their due diligence when it comes to candidates for office, the scoundrels would be shown the door before they could do much damage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *