My Opinion on Term Limits
Recently, I was contacted by a reporter for the York Daily Record in reference to pledges for term limits. I was asked if I first supported term limits for members of Congress, and if I did, had I taken any pledges for term limits. The information I provided was to be included in a story that was being worked on. This story ended up becoming a YDR opinion piece on term limits that appeared in the Sunday edition of YDR.
If you read the above linked article, you will see that I am not quoted, nor was my position that I gave the reporter explained. Since the unlisted author of the YDR opinion piece supports term limits for members of Congress, I imagine that my statements did not matter in the end, because they do not fit with the official YDR opinion on term limits. What follows is my entire opinion on term limits and why I will not take a pledge to impose term limits on members of Congress.
A member in the U.S. House of Representatives serves a two year term upon being elected. Members elected to the U.S. Senate serve a six year term. The current format, being dominated by a supported two party system, has several inherent problems. Once elected to the House, a member may have one year to concentrate on legislation. The following year is most likely spent campaigning for office. This is one flaw and goes against doing the work of the people that elected them.
Not only does the two party stranglehold on Washington D.C. already remove many choices from the voters already, incumbency holds another stranglehold on voter choice. The incumbent already has name recognition when it comes time for another election. Combining this with an enforced two party system does not allow for many different candidates to compete for the office. Before Congressman Platts decided not to run for re-election, there was one other candidate besides myself opposing him. Since his announcement, there are now ten candidates seeking the opening office. Whether the Republican candidates agreed with Congressman Platts’ opinions and voting record or not will never be known. They allowed him to continue running in the Republican Party for this office, election after election, for six terms. Both of these factors reduce voter choice.
Another reason why the voters’ choices are further limited are due to the two party stranglehold on American politics. In the 2010 election, all statewide minor party candidates were removed from the ballot due to political pressure. From reading that article, you see how the two party system forces minor party candidates from the ballot: by threatening the candidate with huge fines/costs to fight the nomination papers challenges. No minor party candidate in this state can compete with the money raised and spent by the Republicans and Democrats. No minor party candidates can therefore fight to stay in a race when they are challenged. How did the law get that way? Ask the Democrats and Republicans. They continuously make it impossible for anyone else to compete in elections. These tactics drastically reduce the amount of candidates that run for office, thus restricting the choice of the voters.
With incumbency, a two party stranglehold on Washington, and the power to make laws to keep other candidates off the ballot, it certainly seems like the Republicans and Democrats have cemented their foothold doesn’t it? Absolutely not! They continue to further restrict a voter’s choice in the election booth with other ways to keep those that are not the party’s chosen few from the ballot. Some candidates who choose to fight the establishment of the parties, will join those parties as their only perceived hope at getting elected. The primary election choices, coming this year on April 24th, has already been tampered with by the two major parties to further reduce your choice as a voter. The two major parties hold endorsement hearings several months before the primary. Unless you are part of the establishment, have played the game, bowed down to the party elite, and waited your turn in line, you will not receive the party endorsement. Once endorsed, the party’s machine begins to work on the endorsed candidate’s behalf by raising money, contributing money, contributing volunteers and building name recognition. When a non-endorsed candidate attempts to compete against the party endorsed candidate, the vast majority of the time, the non-endorsed candidate loses. This further restricts your voting choices and allows the party to pick the candidate that it wants…not necessarily the one you want as a voter. Combine this with consistent low voter turnout for primary elections , your choice in November has already been reduced so many times that you might as well not even attempt to run for office at all as a common citizen (one that is not part of the political scene already), let alone run as a minor party candidate. Is this how it should be?
As I have detailed above, your choice as a registered voter is already limited by the time you even go to the polls to vote. If you like your representative in office, and that representative continuously does a good job in your opinion, why further restrict your choice by imposing a legislated term limit on him/her? You as the voter are already supposed to have the ultimate term limit determination with your vote. If you do not like the politician in office, your vote for their opposition will end that politician’s term. With all of the detailed information above that removes your power as a voter already, I will not support term limit legislation or any pledges to that effect, as it will further restrict your power as a voter.
Finally, let us take a look at some of these term limit pieces of legislation. Congressman Platts, who graciously decided to not run for re-election, supported term limits for members of Congress. Since he supported term limits, he term limited himself. It is commendable to see a politician that follows through on what they believe.
What needs questioning however is the term limit numbers in various pledges and pieces of legislation. There are various levels of pension benefits available for members of the U.S. Congress. Most of the information that I have found, states that members are eligible to receive a basic pension after five years of service at the age of 62. The longer they serve, the earlier they can collect a pension. Either way, for the ability to receive one at all, a member has to serve only one term in the Senate, and at least three terms in the House. Every variation of term limit legislation that I have seen fully exceeds those basic requirements. In the vast majority of cases, getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives is just the first step in a long career in politics. Does this make term limit pledges by candidates hypocritical or just uninformed? You decide…