More On Term Limits
We got quite of bit of mail on term limits and the House vote on Feb. 12. Here's a sample, and if you'd like to weigh in on any of the issues of the day, drop us a note at at editor@AllPolitics.com Be sure to include your name and home town.
'No Longer An Effective System'
I agree that we have term limits in the form of elections. However, this is no longer an effective system. Politicians do things that will get them re-elected, not the things they know we need. If they knew their time was limited anyway, they would have no reason to dodge the tough issues and might start voting the necessary, unpopular vote!
-- Todd Szymczak, Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb. 17
'A Job For The Experienced'
I am a Republican and find myself following a different path from the party on this issue. 1994 proved to us that term limits are not necessary. If we as Americans agree to rid ourselves of the abusive and the corrupt, then so be it. However, if I am impressed by my Senator or Congressman I may support them for decades to come.
I have worked in politics at several levels and am convinced that elected office is a job for the experienced. It is a complex system of committees and political maneuvers. For the sake of one's own district incumbents are more valuable than the so-called fresh perspective.
Term limits should be implemented for committee chairs and leadership, but please do not limit my choice.
-- Bill Miller, Athens, Ohio, Feb. 16
'The Only Effective Way'
Term limits are the only effective way to ensure that the American people do not lose their voice in Washington. Incumbent legislators have an enormous campaign advantage over any challenger with all the free publicity that comes with public office. I personally believe that Washington corrupts many a good person over the course of a career and that by changing the guard on a regular basis, we can eliminate a lot of those problems.
-- Orion Deters, Spring Grove, Minn., Feb. 17
'Goes Much Deeper'
If you look behind every issue, there is a question that needs to be answered that goes much deeper than the issue raised... The issue of term limits should force everyone to answer one question: What is wrong with our election system?
The responses so far have been in favor of using elections instead of term limits. But the election system is unfair. New people who are better and more qualified to lead don't get a chance because they need millions of dollars just to run one commercial. This is not a fair democracy; this is comparable to a business monopoly.
To maintain a democracy, something must be done. In my mind, there are two options.
First, make the election process fair by giving each candidate a chance in a sort of run-off debate system. Of course, certain criteria must be met for you to be a candidate, but financial status shouldn't be one of them. Through this limited (but free to the candidate) televised debate system, people would get information about a candidate's ability to perform and think under pressure, plus give candidates a chance to voice their opinions and counter opinions live on national television. (I have to add here not to limit these debates based on standard television mentality. In other words, don't stop the show because it's time for "Murder, She Wrote.")
Second, impose term limits. Make them around 12 years to not limit the potential of people, but still give others an opportunity. These term limits could be raised if the candidate gets over 85 percent of the vote, but could not go beyond 18 years.
Anyone who argues against term limits for Congress has to be against term limits for the president. But we all know what power can do to people and it is happening in Washington 10 times worse than anywhere else.
One could also argue that the fact that Strom Thurmond got elected at age 96 is proof that the voters are capable of making stupid choices. Or one could argue that our election system has failed when a new candidate can't beat a dead incumbent.
-- John Melbye, Rice Lake, Wis., Feb. 17
'Very Significant Problems'
The need for term limits stems from some very significant problems in our election process. Firstly, there is the problem of campaign finance. The founders of our nation expected that we would all be involved in the running of our government. They believed in citizen legislators. Unfortunately, PACs, lobbyists and the like have a stake in getting "the right person" elected, currying favor with him and perpetuating the system we have now. With all of the money supporting elections (mostly supporting the re-election of incumbents) it is nearly impossible for all but a truly wealthy challenger to stand a chance.
Secondly, the very idea that congressional districts can be mapped by any but geographic standards is ludicrous. Once elected though, officials can and do remap districts to ensure that they have ample support from "their district". If these problems were addressed there would be no need for term limits.
We could easily solve the finance problem by limiting contributions to $100 per voter. No donations allowed from companies, organizations or any non-voter.
-- Anthony Montano, Orange, Conn., Feb. 15
'Look First At The President's Term Limit'
Before I even think about Congressional term limits, I look first at the president's term limit. FDR was an incredibly popular president that Republicans just couldn't beat. Death was the only thing that could remove him from office. And Republicans wrote up an amendment so that they would never have to face the reign of another Franklin Roosevelt. Based on my neutrality towards these limits, I think either both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government should face term limits, or that there should be none at all.
The problem is that a bill imposing Congressional term limits will simply never get past Congress. The only legislation that has any hope on this matter would be a Constitutional Amendment. And right now, I'm not too thrilled about any amendments that are up for approval.
-- Dan Premo, Allegany, N.Y., Feb. 15
'The 'Lame Duck' Argument'
One argument that never seems to be discussed in debates on term limits is the "lame duck" argument. Having term limits are supposed to make legislators more concerned with the common good than the next election. But if half of Congress is in its last term and doesn't have to worry about another election, isn't this a formula for corruption? And even if a legislator refuses to be corrupt, doesn't the lack of an upcoming election remove any incentive for legislators to pay attention to the views of constituents? At best, term limits will result in more legislators "speaking their own mind" no matter what the public wants. At worst, they will result in widespread corruption.
-- Renato Mariotti, Chicago Ill., Feb. 16
'The Real Problem...Money!'
Term Limits failed again in Congress. That's to be expected. Without real campaign finance reform, term limit is an absolute necessity! With all that money, the incumbents often beat off the challengers, often unfairly financially. That is the real problem...money! MONEY! Wake up!
-- R. Pearson, Temple, Texas, Feb. 15
Anything that deters people from becoming career politicians is a good thing. Folks who have their own life together and concentrate on maximizing their own happiness aren't generally motivated to "save" society from itself. Perhaps if government service was a "quickie" we would attract more of these types of individuals.
-- George Hasara, Franklin, N.C., Feb. 16
'So Many Inherent Advantages'
It's not a question of whether the American people are "idiots" or whether we "already have term limits in the form of elections" as some writers have said here. What happens is that incumbents have so many inherent advantages, befriend so many special interests and the voters are so apathetic that the playing field is tilted so much it becomes almost impossible to vote them out of office. We are ambivalent as usual. We either need to accept the fact that we have professional, lifetime office holders who become co-opted by the "system" and special interests, or we institute term limits. I think, based on my observations of our political landscape for many years, that we need term limits now.
-- Mike Chandler, Tampa, Fla., Feb. 16
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