Time to resurrect the term limits movement

The current issues involving our Congress are debated endlessly in the media, but ultimately they become framed in the context of what they mean to the re-election efforts of our senators and representatives. We watch our congressmen deftly balance their positions on the issues in front of the cameras, dodging and feinting as they seek to determine the safest path to re-election.

Why must the importance of issues that impact our daily lives, and what they portend for our progeny, be degraded by relating them to the personal desires of our duly elected representatives to retain their access to cushy benefits and the perks of power? Are not the ramifications to our collective interests of national fiscal responsibility, defense of our country, energy independence, and health care policy more important than the career longevity of our congressmen?

It seems we elect serious and sincere individuals to go to Washington on our behalf and tend to our national interests. And for the most part, they are that. But once they become accustomed to the special benefits self-endowed by themselves and their antecedents, their interest turns from the merits of the issues to how their positions on the issues will impact their ability to retain the accouterments of power and representation. In this context, the issues become "all about them." The quest to maintain membership among the favored few becomes a barrier to voting their conscience and tending to what is in the best interests of those who sent them there.

Therefore, if we expect our representatives to deal with national issues without the risk of subordinating the importance these issues have to the populace to the temptations of power, this risk needs to be eliminated. And this can be achieved with the implementation of term limits.

Americans understand this intuitively, and it is the understanding of the potential structural conflict between responsible representation and the corruptive capabilities of power that have caused 37 states to impose term limits on their elected state officials . The provision, of course, also exists for our President as a result of the Twenty-second Amendment of the Constitution and it needs to be extended to Congress for all the same reasons. And because the depth and breadth of the impact Congress has on our lives is greater than state officials, the reasons are even more compelling.

Since it would be naive to expect those in the position of power to adopt provisions that would constitute a self-imposed date for their return home, we must do it for them. This movement needs to be resurrected at the grass-roots level so that the associated relevance of the importance of national issues can be returned to what each means to our collective interests and not theirs.


Tom Endicott

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