Career politicians serve themselves. Citizen politicians serve the citizens. The country’s successful founding depended on, and anticipated the continuation of, citizen politicians to serve the country. Today we have career politicians who serve themselves.
We must return to the days of citizen politicians by voting in term limits. Career politicians will fight us tooth and nail. That’s the subject of today’s 10-minute podcast.
Passed by Congress in 1947, and ratified by the states on February 27, 1951, the Twenty-Second Amendment limits an elected president to two terms in office, a total of eight years. (There is an exception, but it is minor and does not matter much.) We have term limits with the presidency, the highest level of our government. Many state and local governments have term limits for some offices as well. It is past time for the US to have term limits for Congress.
Geroge Washington term limited himself–twice. His republican (note the small “r”) values gave him a distaste for career rule, even for himself. He gave up power at the end of the revolutionary war when he resigned his military commission, and again at the end of his second term as president when he refused pleas to seek a third term. He set a standard for American presidents that lasted until FDR, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ran for and was elected to four terms. King George III, king of England during Washington’s time, and clearly not term limited, asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what George Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”
“If he does that,” the incredulous monarch replied, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”
Washington had served his country extraordinarily well both militarily and politically; I argue better than anyone before or since. Yet he walked away from those pleading with him to stay in power. And I agree with King George that this final step of walking away from power and adulation made Washington a truly great man. And as hard as power and adoration are to attain, walking away from them at the height of both must be all that much more difficult.
Yet today we have politicians on both sides of the aisle scheming and plotting to raise more and more campaign money and to out promise each other about what they will give to the voters–if only they will vote for them. Today’s politicians are shameless in their drive to attain and keep power. If Washington was the “greatest man” because he walked away from both military and political power, what does that make our current pack of politicians where many will say and do anything to cling to and increase their power?
Career politicians serve themselves; citizen politicians serve the citizens.
Here’s a specific suggestion about Congressional term limits: one term for Senators (6 years) and three terms for Representatives (three, two-year terms). If the limits are slightly higher, no matter. But we must demand limits. And if you are incensed, as am I, about the power that lobbyists gain from contributing cash to multiple campaigns for the same politician, know that term limits will cause lobbyists to lose a lot of their power. Lobbyists who wine and dine candidates, along with contributing to many of their campaigns over the decades, build up real power and influence with that office holder. Politicians need money–and lots of it–to stay in power. Lobbyists have the money to help them do exactly that. It does not take a lot of thought to know with certainty that politicians will use at least some of their long-held power to make the helpfully generous lobbyists happy. If the best a lobbyist can do is to contribute to six years in power for someone in Congress, as opposed to, say, 30 or 40 years, their power is greatly reduced. The decades-long relationships where the lobbyist’s power grows from continuous free entertainment and large cash contributions would be over. Six years of influence and on to the next candidate. Don’t like lobbyists? Support term limits.
Plus. Plus, as voting citizens we need to look with a jaundiced eye at the number of politicians who are termed out of one office, then run for another office. A politician can become a career politician, with all of the attendant positives for them and the negatives for their constituencies, in a series of elected positions, in the same way that many private careers are built on a series of different companies.
One more thing. We must also look at the insider revolving door that allows influential politicians and government officials to move from their regulatory and legislative power bases to the very industries they have been regulating. And then back again. It’s a bit like the fox being allowed to go back and forth between its den and the chicken coop. In this example, the fox does not eat the chickens, it eats the eggs. Our eggs. More specifically, picture a senior Defense Department official leaving government, and going to a major defense contractor. Might they use their connections to award their new company contracts and prices that might not otherwise have been attainable? And isn’t that exactly why this defense contractor gave that former government official a fine salary in the first place? This revolving power door allows for the abuse of power and influence in exactly the same way that the absence of term limits allows.
Today’s Key point: Politicians will never term limit themselves in the way that President Washington did. We will have to drag them kicking and screaming (I kinda like that image) in that direction. Are you in?
Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:
And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.
If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.
The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.
Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”
Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.
Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.
And visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.
Links and References
American’s Unqualified Voters (EP. 89)
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.
Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.
Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.
Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.