A few weeks ago, another contributor for this Think Right Politics wrote an article entitled “It’s Time to Implement Term Limits to Drain the Swamp”. As can be assumed from the title, this article focuses on the reason why we should impose term limits on our politicians. However, I would like to offer up a differing viewpoint on this issue.
Congressional term limits are not the key to making Washington work again, more bipartisanship is. Politicians are democratically elected. If a constituency doesn’t want a certain person to hold public office any longer, they can vote them out. Nothing requires the people to vote for a politician. If the elected official isn’t doing a good job of reflecting the opinions and concerns of the people they represent, then they won’t remain in office much longer. It’s true that incumbents generally win and it’s hard to challenge someone who’s already in office. This can potentially hinder outsiders from running against those already in office. However, incumbents can be defeated if they haven’t represented the people well. This happened in Wisconsin during the 2010 senatorial race between Russ Feingold, the Democratic incumbent, and Ron Johnson, the Republican challenger. Russ Feingold wasn’t performing as he had promised. As a result, the outsider, Ron Johnson was elected. This is a perfect example of democracy doing its job. We need to be able to trust the democratic process in electing the best representative for the people. The thing that creates career politicians isn’t the public official, it’s the people. If a constituency keeps voting for a person that isn’t reflecting their best interests, then the populace needs to become better informed. It’s not up to government to fix these issues.
Imposing term limits would result in politicians being less accountable to the people they represent. During their last term, they wouldn’t have to be representative of their constituency. There would be no ramifications for them if they weren’t. Some argue that when politicians are so focused on winning the next election, they don’t create real change for fear of not being reelected. Most of their energy goes towards to their campaigns instead of policy. Elections also becomes a large expenditure for candidates. However, Congressional term limits are not the solution. To fix that problem, it’s better to look at the duration of terms served by representatives. Those in the US House, only serve two year terms. If this were increased to four years, campaigns wouldn’t be so integral to being in Congress. Having elections, like we do, causes politicians to be accountable. In a representative’s last term, there could be years of them not serving their community. Without fear of not being reelected, there’s nothing to keep public officials from pursuing policy that only reflects their personal interests.
To truly have a representative democracy, any American citizen not convicted of a felony should be able to run for public office, even if they already held it. Barring people from candidacy isn’t something that reflects America. In the corporate world, people aren’t fired from their job because they’ve been in the position for too long. They’re fired for performing below standards. People aren’t barred from applying to the same job multiple times. Why should Congress be any different? Politicians are rewarded for performing well by being reelected and punished by losing in the next election.
Those that have served longer will also have more knowledge that will enable them to represent their constituency better. When newly elected officials first enter congress, they have a lot to learn. The veterans are the ones in leadership positions because they’ve proven themselves. Freshman senators and representatives have little to no experience representing a constituency in Congress. It takes a while to learn the ins and outs of working in Congress. In every other aspect of life, those that have served longer and have more experience are rewarded. They’re more respected and in positions of power. Those in Congress shouldn’t be any different. Those who have proven themselves effective and have served longer shouldn’t be punished for that. Granted, not everyone who has served a long time has proven themselves. People don’t deserve positions of leadership just because they have served longer. However, if the congressman or woman in question has proven themselves, they should be rewarded instead of chastised. The knowledge of a veteran should be praised.
It can take a while to truly make a difference. Elected officials should be given as many opportunities the people are willing to give them to be effective. “Draining the Swamp” is not the answer to fixing Washington, working together is.