This week, we’ve been talking about the problems with government today. Whether it’s how politicians create different stories with the same facts, assign too much blame or praise for factors they couldn’t control, or the role of money in politics, it’s clear that our political system has grown into a bloated self-serving nightmare. How can we fix it? It’s too entangled to be unwound, and while there is no single solution to this horror story, it has to start with limiting the amount of time our officials can spend in Washington.
The fix starts by removing the veterans from power. We need fresh faces that are less likely bend to their party’s whims once in office because they don’t have to worry about being reelected multiple times. We need term limits.
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt we’ve had term limits for the president. But Congress can serve as long as they want. Many are reelected over and over again because they provide just enough earmarks for their districts while still voting along party lines. This is the key to success in Washington.
So what do term limits look like for Congress?
They look like nothing now because they don’t exist. The writers of the Constitution likely expected the immense size of both chambers and state representation would keep everyone in check. What they didn’t account for was every elected official becoming a brainless script reader for their party. So we need to design a system that limits the terms of Congress.
The look could come in various forms but the hope would be to keep someone from becoming a career politician. The goal would be to keep them from serving longer than perhaps 14 years. The first change would be to increase the term for House members from 2 to 4 years. This way they get a small break in the periods they need to campaign. Then limit the number of terms to two. That would be 8 years in the House with only having to campaign twice. The Senate could keep their 6 year terms but only be able to serve once.
It doesn’t have to look this way. Like I said the main goal should be to keep one single person from being in Washington for more than 14 years. That’s long enough.
Regardless of system, this won’t fix everything. Not only that it could create new problems. The revolving door would likely get worse. That’s where people go in and out of the private sector leveraging their government experience and networks for high paying jobs at big companies and lobbyist groups. Parties leaders could still handpick their stooges. The upside is that the stooges have less reliance on the party and wouldn’t feel as obligated to do as they’re told.
Sadly of course we’ll never see such a system. Other than having no support amongst the parties, Congress itself would have to make it happen. No one is going to lesilate themselves out of the job. And with an average tenure of 11 years in the House and 13 in the Senate, that’s exactly what the 111th Congress would have had to do. http://government-policy.blogspot.com/2010/07/average-years-of-service-for-members-of.html
We can still dream though. And support candidates that believe regardless of party, the spirit of constituent representation in Congress is waning.