When asked if they have any issues with Congress the average politically involved American will say “yes” before going into a long list of issues they have with America’s representatives. It could be legislation that was passed, an overall obstructionist ideology, or some other third thing, but the issue comes down to two words: Bad ideas.
One solution for this that is constantly recommended is term limits. However, how effective would such a thing be?
According to supporters of term limits, they are needed to bring “new ideas” into Congress. Personally, I believe Congress is suffering from a few too many “new ideas” at the moment and should get back to a much older idea — that being the Constitution of the United States of America.
I should note that term limits are also something people want — except for when they’re at the ballot box. The people of Kentucky seem to not want term limits considering they keep electing Senator McConnell, and the people of Iowa seem to not want term limits when they re-elect Senator Grassley. The people of New York seem to not want term limits when they keep re-electing Senator Schumer — and I could go on for quite awhile.
Consider the amount of votes politicians considered “walking arguments for term limits” get the last time they get elected:
- Senator Robert Byrd (1959–2010): 291,058
- Senator Ted Kennedy (1962–2010): 1,500,738
- Senator Strom Thurmond (1954–2003): 620,626
- Senator Mitch McConnell (1985 — ): 806,787
- Senator Chuck Grassley (1981— ):926,007
Now tell me, is it really impossible that, if these Senators were term limited, they would just be replaced with one of their voters?
And this is what we see when these Dinosaurs do leave office. Tell me, how would history be different if Ted Kennedy was still in his old Senate seat and not Elizabeth Warren? How would history be different in Strom Thurmond was still in his old Senate seat and not Lindsey Graham? The longest serving Senator in United States history is Blue Dog Democrat Robert Byrd, when he died in 2010 Blue Dog Democrat Joe Manchin was elected to replace him.
So the idea that they will bring “new ideas” is utter nonsense, but for that matter, who says “new ideas” are a good thing? The Green New Deal is a pretty “new idea” — it’s also not one any of the populist Republicans pushing for term limits support. Building a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico was also quite a “new idea” for its time, do any of the leftists who argue for term limits support it?
But what if someone is elected to Congress who has, not just new ideas, but good ideas? Then I want that person in Congress for as long as possible!
I’m one of the many people who hates the fact that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI) are giving up their congressional seats in 2020 (although, in the case of Amash, that is only rumored at time of writing). I want those people in Congress for a good long time, I’m talking their enemies declare them “a walking reason for term limits” kind of long time.
However, those one in a million congresspeople are going to be shuffled out with every other bad actor in Congress in just a number of years, replaced with an establish personality despite the support of the American public.
In truth, the reason most Americans don’t get their voices heard is because of refusing to take part in the political process. The United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the western world, and when people don’t vote, they don’t even get the chance to have a voice in government.
Term limits would not fix the issue of political disenfranchisement. All they will do is change who the minority of Americans that remain politically active vote for slightly faster. In the long run, they will not do all that much.