It’s an age-old campaign tactic that has been used so often it has grown to fall upon deaf ears for most of the American people. “I’m going to go to Washington, fight the career politicians, and get to work!” shouts most of the candidates who run to represent (on average) 700,000 people in the United States Congress.
If you haven’t gotten it by now, they’re all lying to you.
Congressional term limits are far from a new idea. When discussions of term limits began in the post-WWII era back in 1947, the offices of the president, vice-president, and even those in congress were considered (following President Franklin Roosevelt’s four consecutive presidential terms). While a constitutional amendment restricting presidents and vice-presidents to two terms was ratified (the 22nd Amendment) in 1951, term limits on members of Congress were not. Since then, there have been a few attempts by some in Congress to reignite conversations on congressional term limits but none of them amounted to any substantial legislation. The most recent action on congressional term limits occurred in 2019 when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a constitutional amendment that would limit representatives in the House to three, two-year terms and those in the Senate to two, six-year terms. However, the likelihood of this proposed amendment passing the Senate, House, and ratified by three quarters of states is quite small.
A common argument used to oppose term limits on Congress is that the politicians won’t work as effectively since many ‘experienced’ lawmakers would eventually be forced out and ‘inexperienced’ lawmakers would be forced in. The intent of those using this argument is to suggest that experience leads to efficiency, and while in many professions this is the case, for Congress it is not. As of September 2020, the approval rating of Congress sits at a hilariously low seventeen percent, with eighty percent of respondents saying they disapprove of the current job performance by Congress as a whole. Those that argue that experience matters are missing the point: you can’t get much worse than what we have now in Congress with all of those ‘experienced’ politicians.
Term limits on Congress would provide a new avenue for newer and/or younger candidates to have an opportunity to serve their respective areas while also incentivizing them to work harder for results for their given communities. Career politicians who represent either heavily Democrat or Republican areas have no incentive to actively produce results for their constituents mainly because their seat is not at risk of being flipped. This essentially gives those elected officials a sense of job-security, a sense that they should not be able to enjoy in an efficient system. Perhaps the biggest threat to their presence in office would be a primary challenger, however, primary challengers are already disincentivized from running for office when the incumbent has decades of ‘experience’ in office. While there certainly have been cases of incumbents being ousted by their primary challengers, these cases are relatively few and far between.
By reducing the possibility of an individual serving in the same position for decades, they are incentivized to work harder given the fact that they would sooner revert to the private sector. This means that term-limited politicians would feel the effects of the policies they supported and voted on more than they otherwise would if they were allowed to sit in Congress for decades.
Some may argue that elections serve as the ultimate check on a politicians’ power and that imposing term limits is ‘unnecessary’ or, better yet, ‘restricting’ on the people’s choices. While elections certainly are paramount in checking the power of a politician, term limits act as a safety valve of sorts, for which a peaceful transition of power can continue.
President George Washington set the precedent for future presidents to not seek a third term, a precedent that was followed by every president until FDR and then constitutionally imposed by the 22nd Amendment. Washington’s reasoning for doing this was he feared that, “If he were to die while in office, Americans would view [his position] as a lifetime appointment.” Term limits on Congress would follow the same wisdom and guidance left by the nation’s first president; doing so would go a long way in preserving the freedom upon which this nation was founded.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.