Thomas Jefferson once wrote to Samuel Adams, stating, “… government by representees, elected by the people at short periods, was our object, and our maxim… was, ‘Where annual election ends, tyranny begins’; nor have our departures from it been sanctioned by the happiness of their effects…”
The issue of congressional term limits is still severely neglected and considered a non-issue by many politicians. Over 200 congressmen have limited the democratic processes of their states and districts by having significantly advantaged reelection campaigns, uncontested. Special interests, driven by lobbyists, have created through establishment politicians a disparaging atmosphere in Washington D.C. that has limited the original goals and desires of our Founding Fathers, like Thomas Jefferson. However, 75 percent of Americans believe that they would vote for Congressional term limits, yet two-thirds of Congress would not ratify this as a constitutional amendment.
Why does this have to be a constitutional amendment? Because in 1995, the Supreme court ruled in U.S. Term Limits, Inc v. Thornton that states could not impose congressional term limits on their representative seats. Since the framers of the Constitution had no intention of creating the profession of “career politicians,” it is the duty of the American people to vocalize their opinions to the greatest extent. Americans have already shown dissatisfaction with the “establishment” politicians– giving the opportunity to “outsiders” to seemingly out-perform more qualified candidates.
The sentiments of Roger Sherman resonate with the political revolution that is presently occurring: “Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their constituents.” The function of the Congress is to act as a citizen legislature with the House being the most direct representative of the people. The political change that is occurring now is a direct rejection of the created “establishment.” According to a Princeton University study, public opinion of the bottom 90 percent has almost no effect on impacting federal legislation whereas large corporations and special interests effectively control elections and the vote of the politicians.
With term limits, lobbyists would be limited in creating strong bonds with politicians. Likewise, politicians would gain a stronger intrinsic motivation to improve the nation for their represented population. Historically, models of self-imposed term limits have been considered examples of honor and integrity. Both Roman statesman Lucius Cincinnatus and later American President George Washington established the precedent for term limits among heads of state with the guiding principle that they were chosen to serve their people. Only a select few members of Congress have self-imposed term limits and those tend to be among Tea Party/anti-establishment politicians.
Despite the popular view of term limits, the only side that has been supporting term limits seems to have been exclusively within the GOP, particularly among more conservative members such as Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have vocalized their sentiments on the matter. Whereas third party candidates such as Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have both supported the cause. This shows how the issue is not a matter of left or right. Rather, this issue is a matter of principle against the cronyism in Washington. Support for term limits from the president will improve chances of such constitutional amendment passing in Congress. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the American public for either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump to adopt the pro-term limit policy.
The 2016 election process has effectively brought Thomas Jefferson’s dream of term limits and the rejection of “career politicians” back to the forefront. A resurgence of true and fair American democracy can take precedent once more. This will be the first, and one of the most important steps, we, as a nation, will take to preserve our nation’s future– not the future of special interests.