Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chapter 22. Term Limits Au Naturel

"Power tends to corrupt... Great men are almost always bad men."
Lord Acton, 1887
When we last left 18 year Utah Senate veteran Bob Bennett, he was sobbing his way out of office, having been ousted by voters in the state's GOP convention in the midst of what Bennett called the "toxic" atmosphere of anti-incumbent dissatisfaction.  Three terms in public service should be enough for any citizen, but given the money and power involved it's no wonder that Bennett is far from the most extreme example of the American Political Tick.

In fact, of the 100 current senators in office, 27 have longer tenures than Bennett (he is tied with four others).  When former stints in the House of Representative are counted, 14 additional "public servants" jump ahead of him.  Many of them have decades more, such as Senator Robert Byrd (class of 1959), Daniel Inouye (1963) and Patrick Leahy (1975).  Then there's Pat Roberts (1997) and Chuck Schumer (1999) who also formerly spent 16 and 18 years in the House, respectively, giving them each longer times at the trough than Bennett.

This also gives them longer tenures than the dictatorships of Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.

Experience shows that our politicians will generally not voluntarily give up their powerful positions in government; very few resign unless clearly facing voter rejection or perhaps under cloud of scandal, and even then they sometimes have to be forcibly shown the door.  Many would-be reformers call for imposed term limits as a solution, but such legislation must be sponsored and supported by the very men and women taking advantage of the system, so the term limitists probably shouldn't hold their breath.

No, there is only one sure way, already built into every election, to limit the time politicians remain in office:  the voters.  Voters must resolve that after a particular number of terms or years in office, they will automatically cast a ballot for another candidate in the primary and general elections.  Unfortunately, many Americans have the classic age-old opinion, "he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."  If we are to change the dynamic of higher stakes and lower expectations in our political system, this naive and robotic sentiment must be eliminated.

This blog calls on all American voters to pull the opposing lever against any politician who is running for a cumulative fourth term, regardless of the promises, the pork, or the winning smile.  If we don't do this, there may come a day when we lose the right to throw the bums out.  Shame on us if this happens.

Quotient out.

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