Term limits won't fix the problem in Washington, but these solutions might
Donald Trump in his 2024 inaugural campaign speech, and Freedom Caucus members in recent negotiations with House speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy, again advocated a constitutional amendment to add congressional term limits.
But term limits would neglect simple party rules that have, in the past, already proven to work well. Instead, term limits would make constitutional changes that certainly wouldn't be enough.
This is clear from first principles. To accumulate good elected representatives faster, we would need an improvement in the net of the inflow, outflow, and spoilage.
Accumulation = Inflow – Outflow – Spoilage
Inflow of good representatives wouldn't be improved by term limits.
Term limits would provide more open seats but would leave unchanged all the mechanisms that parties and cronies use to win votes for Progressive candidates. These mechanisms are detailed below. Overall, as voters have all seen, these mechanisms create name recognition and misleading positive branding for Progressive candidates and create misleading negative branding of opponents.
Even with term limits, cronies' funding, the parties' contracted schedules, and the parties' and cronies' tactics would all remain in place. All these things would be applied to all the open seats. This would win seats for Progressive candidates in proportions much like now.
Outflow of good representatives would definitely be worsened by term limits. Every good incumbent would be washed out, fairly quickly.
Spoilage of good representatives wouldn't be improved by term limits.
The pool of good representatives does not include those whose votes get significantly worse under a Republican Progressive president, and does not include those whose votes start out good and end up worse.
Neither group could be the basis for making lasting changes. The challenge is to accumulate more genuinely good representatives.
To meet this challenge requires not chasing a magical partial solution, but instead rooting out the real problems shared by all current parties.
It's necessary to have at least one major party sustainably provide these commonsense solutions:
- No party funding of candidates
- No platform
- Conservative Review Liberty Scores of a minimum of 80%
- Moderator-free party-sanctioned debates
- All-closed contests
- All-caucus contests
- All-proportional voting
- Electors awarded only on seats currently held by the party
- One-at-a-time contests
- Contests in order of decreasing party strength
No party funding of candidates will take away from a party the leverage that Progressives have grabbed to fund candidates whom voters themselves would not fund directly.
No platform will take away any pretense that voters could trust without verifying that a candidate will use his constitutional powers to take actions that voters want.
Liberty Scores of a minimum of 80% will apply on the pro-liberty side the mirror image of the Democrats' Liberty Scores, which in practice are a maximum of around 20%. Those scores have let Democrats advance tyranny, so this mirror image of those scores will let constitutionalists advance liberty.
Moderator-free debates will stop the media from prefiltering and then immediately adulterating the information that candidates provide to voters in debates.
All-closed contests, all-proportional voting, electors only awarded on seats currently held, one-at-a-time contests, and contests in order of decreasing party strength will empower the party's more successful voters to apply their best judgment first.
All-caucus contests will enable the best-informed and most intuitively correct voters to influence their neighbors.
With these rules, crony media buys and media won't generate votes. Instead, the best voters will inform the rest.
Term limits would require a constitutional amendment. From then on, every good incumbent would be washed out, fast. Good party rules will only take immediate rules changes. From then on, good candidates will be available to voters for every position.
Term limits promise that voters will someday be in control, but term limits can't deliver. Good party rules in at least one major party will put voters in control in every election.
James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers; publishes rConstitution.us; and has written in Daily Caller, The Federalist, American Thinker, American Greatness, Mises Institute, and Foundation for Economic Education. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master's in mechanical engineering.
Image via Max Pixel.