President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to “drain the swamp” of corruption that is Washington, D.C. In the days since his dramatic win over Hillary Clinton, the swamp has noticeably come alive with activity. All kinds of nasty swamp creatures (elected officials, lobbyists, special interest groups) have come forward and dug their toes in the mud in advance of the looming showdown with our soon-to-be 45th president. If President-elect Trump follows through on his promise to drain the swamp, their power and influence will come to an abrupt end, and we will once again have a government that is accountable to and representative of the people.
The simplest, but also most difficult way to drain the swamp would be to pass a constitutional amendment implementing term limits for members of Congress. Under Article V of the Constitution, there are two paths that can be followed in order to pass a constitutional amendment. The first path requires an amendment to gain the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states in order to pass. The second path requires two-thirds of the states to petition Congress to call for a convention to propose an amendment, which would then have to gain the support of three-fourths of the states in order to be adopted.
Since it is unlikely that the swamp would voluntarily vote to drain itself, the first path is unlikely to be followed. The second path is a much more likely option; 34 states would need to petition Congress to call a convention, and when January 2017 rolls around, 32 state legislatures will be under Republican control. Assuming that President Trump pushes for a constitutional amendment to implement term limits on Congress and all Republican-controlled legislatures sign on, it is likely that at least two Democrat-controlled legislatures would follow suit. If the amendment were to be adopted by the convention of the states, an additional four states would need to ratify it (38 total) for it to become part of the Constitution. If that were to happen, it would be an incredible victory for our country.
Why are term limits necessary in order to drain the swamp? They would be an effective check on the power of representatives who go to Washington not to represent their constituents but to collect paychecks and fight for their wealthiest donors.
Our country’s Founders were farmers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc. They shuddered at the thought of career politicians. When the same people keep getting re-elected over and over again, sometimes remaining in office for decades, it is unrealistic to think that any meaningful change is taking place in terms of government policy. Career politicians are the problem, not the solution. They knowingly create mess after mess for our country and then campaign on promises of fixing them, but they never do. Why would they? If they actually did, they would soon be out of office because there would be nothing left to talk about.
Would you hire an arsonist to be a firefighter? Would you hire a burglar to be a security guard? Of course not! Politics should be no different. Who in their right mind would hire a career politician to solve a problem created by career politicians?
If term limits were imposed on members of Congress, the careers of Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, Thad Cochran, Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, etc., would come to an end. Those men and women are undoubtedly decent, honorable people, but it’s safe to say that if you’ve been in office since the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, you’ve been there too long. In the words of Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s time for Congress to get an infusion of fresh blood, ideas, and leadership. It’s time to implement term limits. It’s time to drain the swamp!