America Needs Term Limits II

America Needs Term Limits II

Please  take time to consider these Pro and Con arguments regarding term limits in government. I believe that requiring term limits in Congress would greatly improve our representational government by returning more power to the people, where it belongs.

The information that follows is from

I hope  you will visit this site and carefully consider the following arguments.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.   2/24/10

The following is a direct quote.


Discussion of Arguments in Favor:

1. Overwhelmingly, voters prefer term limits.

Whenever statewide term limits is on a ballot, it wins overwhelmingly. This phenomenon may be due to the voter’s native common sense. This may be the most powerful argument in its favor. In other words, it appears that voters instinctively know that term limits is better for voters than  unlimited terms. In the 23 states that have the Initiative Process (where voters can petition to place issues on the ballot), 21 states have voted for and won statewide term limits. Whenever politicians have tried to end term limits, they have been resoundingly defeated, and repeatedly so.

2. Term Limits downgrades seniority, favors meritocracy.

Unlimited terms creates a need in the legislature for a seniority system, in which mediocre politicians thrive. If they can be reelected a few times, thereby earning the ‘right’ (by seniority, not by merit) to serve in important committees and chairmanships, they cement their chances of being reelected continuously, not because they deserve it, but only because of the power they wield and the media exposure they receive, enhancing their name recognition.

3. Term limits increases competition, encourages new challengers.

Seniority systems now in place in Congress discourage truly talented individuals from running for office, because even though they can win, they know they will have to wait years before they will get any recognition for their bills, or a seat on a good committee (much less a chairmanship!). With term limits in force, all legislators will be relatively new arrivals, and therefore seniority will be meaningless. Merit will become the selection method of choice.

4. Term limits builds a ‘citizen’ Congress, vs career or ‘professional’ politicians.

After a few years of term limits, both voters and politicians will recognize that the legislature is made up of real people, not just those ‘lousy career politicians’, and the quality of legislation by a ‘citizen Congress’ will begin to change for the better. It may not be perfect, but it will certainly be better. Elective office should not be a livelihood or career job, simply because it involves a fundamental ‘conflict of interest’. An
incumbent who fears for his job cannot vote honestly for the good of his constituents or the country.

5. Breaks ties to special interests.

The breaking of the cozy connections between long tenured pols and their various special interests and lobbying organizations will force those interests to try to reconnect with a new breed of legislator who is not a career politician, but one who thinks differently, and more often with common sense and integrity, and is less often concerned with reelection.

6. Improves tendency to vote on principle, vs backscratching.

A substantial number of these new legislators will be ordinary people who do not intend to make a life in politics, but who want to improve the system. These people will be the source of truly new thinking, and far more likely to vote on principle, considering the right thing to do, and what is best for the country, rather than trading votes with other legislators or special interests (‘If you vote for my pork, I’ll vote for your pork’)

7. Introduces fresh thinking, new ideas, eliminates the  ‘old bulls’.

The large number of new legislators will introduce a breath of fresh air into the halls of Congress, in which the old habits of the legions of Congressional staff and department bureaucrats will face considerable skepticism and questioning about “This is the way we’ve always done it!”. Common sense will get new life in legislation.

8. Reduces the power of staff, bureaucracy, and lobbies.

Contrary to the claims of opponents, the new blood in Congress will not be influenced by the old staffs (many of whom will be replaced). Neither will they lean on, or be led by, bureacracies or lobbyists. More likely they will be offended and put off by the arrogance of those

9. It will create a natural reduction in wasteful federal spending.

Another serious effect of unlimited terms is the growth of pork in our spending bills. Every Congressman and Senator up for reelection has a major incentive to get some Federal spending passed for some more or less ‘useful’ item for his constituency, whether it is needed or not, paid for by the country at large, just to show his voters he is ‘doing something’ for them. And all other Congresspeople return the favor because they are doing the same thing. Term limited politicians do not have this bad incentive.

10. Encourages lower taxes, smaller government, greater voter participation in elections.

The inexorable increase in taxes and in the size of government is a direct result of voter apathy caused by voter hopelessness about their inability to ‘throw the bums out’. Enough other voters keep voting by ‘name recognition’ and their legislator’s ability to get ‘goodies’ for their district, that attendance at the polls keeps falling to new lows. Term limits will bring a fresh crop of new challengers and issues which will make voter participation in elections surge to new heights, once the voters realize that the ‘bums’ are  gone.

11. There are more reasons in favor of term limits than reasons against.

It seems to me that the number of reasons in favor of term limits so far outnumbers those against (as shown on this page), that it is difficult to understand why term limits has not long ago been adopted, and why I believe in the inevitability that it will be passed eventually. This is borne out by the history of state term limits, mentioned in #1 above. And considering the opposing arguments which follow, which are easily rebutted, we should carry the Congressional Term Limits Amendment (CTLA) campaign to a successful conclusion more easily than is currently expected.

12. Gets reelection rates closer to 50% vs current 99%.

Finally, for almost 200 years, our Congress has lived with reelection rates close to 50%, just as our Founders expected. Only in the last 30 years or so have reelection rates started to soar, as politicians have learned to ‘game the system’, and more voters have become impatient with long ballots, relying on ‘name recognition’ to do their voting. In the last few elections, reelection rates have topped 97%, and in 2004, went over 99% ! Who in his right mind would think that all those incumbents were worthy of reelection ?

Discussion (and Rebuttal) of Arguments Opposed:

1. Term limits terminates the ‘good’ politicians along with the ‘bad’.

This appears to be one of only two valid opposition arguments, but it is fully counterbalanced by the fact that, with unlimited terms in place, an unknowable number of talented individuals never run for office in the first place, or if they do, they lose, because incumbents ‘always’ win! Furthermore, getting rid of the ‘bad’ incumbents is a definite ‘plus’ in itself, besides making room for new, probably ‘better’ challengers.

2. Reform of Congress’ procedures would be easier than passing a term limits amendment.

Better ways to avoid the abuses of entrenched power, and to improve the quality of Congressional performance, would include such ideas as:

     a. Prohibiting the use of seniority for awarding chairmanships or special assignments.
     b. Limit subchairs to two years, and fullchairs to six years.
     c. Or rotate all chairs more frequently.
     d. End the power of chairs to bury bills in committee.
     e. End the power of Senators to arbitrarily put a ‘hold’ on nominations.
     e. And so forth. I’m sure there are many other ideas out there.

The added attraction of such reforms is that there should be a far greater number of Congresspeople who would be very much in favor of these changes  (vs those in favor of Term Limits). Many in Congress in both houses and both parties chafe at the need to wait out their seniority turn before getting to where they can exercise some real power on political issues.

I would guess that this idea has not gained any headway because the number of freshman has been dwindling for many years, while the number of old timers and ‘next-in-liners’, plus the ‘drones’, has been increasing. This kind of reform should be easier to accomplish than a Congressional Term Limits Amendment, if given vigorous support outside the Congress. I would support this effort too, but for now I favor term limits because, obviously, the great weakness of this idea is the fact that Congress could pass it, and Congress could easily rescind it.

3. Term limits reduces voter choice.

Obviously a false argument, since as incumbents reach reelection rates of 98%, most voters are being deprived of real choice!

4. Term limits causes a loss of knowledge and experience.

The President and and his staff have been effectively term limited for over 200 years, and yet the country has prospered enormously. Why should Congress be any different? The knowledge and experience of people who have spent 20-30 years in the real world, outside of Washington, DC, is every bit as valuable, perhaps more so, than that of a career politician who never earned a dime outside of government..

5. Term limits increases the power of staff, bureaucracy, and lobbyists.

When term limits takes effect, the influx into Congress of a great many fresh ordinary Americans as legislators, with the native intelligence and the basic common sense we have in our country, will be more than a match to face down the arrogant, entrenched staffs and other bureaucracies and lobbies.

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