I recently (and finally) finished reading Michael Tanner's Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution
. It is a decent book that points out many places where the Republican Party has gone astray. Tanner certainly does not have much love for President Bush.
One topic I had never given much serious thought to is term limits. Tanner mentions them in his book and the more I think about it the more I like the idea. The likelihood of them being enacted, I regret to say, is about as probable as me going to Mars.
The idea certainly resonates with voters. Tanner notes that during the 1990s “voters in 21 states approved term limits for their members of Congress.” Unfortunately those victories were overturned in a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton. In the opening paragraph of his dissent Justice Thomas writes:
Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each State of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress. The Constitution is simply silent on this question. And where the Constitution is silent, it raises no bar to action by the States or the people.
I am certainly no lawyer, but that seems reasonable to me. And I imagine I am much more likely to agree with Justice Thomas rather than Justice Stevens (who wrote the majority opinion).
Tanner used two simple quotes that got me thinking.
Former Congressman and current South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford stated, “If I’d viewed my career in Congress as the next 30 years of my life, I think I would have been a lot more hesitant to bring up Social Security.” I would suggest that Social Security could be replaced by any issue.
Former Congressman Matt Salmon noted, “The independence that comes from limiting my terms has enabled me to vote against the bloated budget deal of 1997, and to challenge my own party’s leadership.”
Where are those who challenge the leadership now (on either side of the aisle)? Once in Washington our Congressmen and women seem to fall in line and shut their traps, worrying more about their career trajectory than the fools that elected them.
I do not know what would have to happen for term limits to be passed into law, but I can dream, can’t I? Nothing would warm my heart more than to see a bunch of unemployed career politicians.