Dueling opinions – are congressional term limits a good idea or not?

Dave Owen, Opinion Editor

Democratic suppression

It’s time to have that conversation again folks, in regards to term limits and whether or not they are a good idea. As you can tell from the title of the article, I  am 100 percent against the concept of term limits and hope you will be too by the end of this conversation.

Term limits when they begin their argument usually sound fairly pragmatic, as though it were a silver bullet to fix the issues facing our nation. Proponents of term limits start out by pointing out that congressional approval ratings are seldom above 20 percent, and that even your average used car salesman is more trusted and respected in the community than the aggregate of the politicians in Washington D.C., Bismarck or Minneapolis.

They then point to the fact that the reason political insiders play games is to retain their power, so if we didn’t give them a way to retain that power they would have no games left to play. This all makes sense in theory, but becomes problematic the second they begin talking about their districts politician or the local mayor.

By the very definition of political office in most races, the politician must have at a minimum of 50 percent, due to the two party system, which sadly still exists in our society. Furthermore, when we look at the hard approval of congressmen/women in most districts their approval hovers around 70 to 80 percent. As much as Democrats and Republicans tend to complain about career politicians, they seem to as a group never have a problem with them when it’s their guy in office.

Take for example the so called Washington outsider Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio on the right, or Bernie Sanders on the left. All three of these individuals have been heavily involved in the American political system for most of if not all of their adult lives, and outsider rhetoric is usually a lie to unseat a qualified individual especially in the GOP.

In fact nearly 75 percent of all American’s supported ‘career politicians’ as their first choices during the primaries, the very people term limits seek to eliminate.

Secondly, I find the rhetoric around career politicians dishonest to say the least. Rather than attack their policies people chose to attack the fact that they have served their nation for a prolonged period of time.

Name one other profession where time served is seen as a negative as opposed to a positive. Naturally, the longer you work at something the more experienced and better at it you become, and a life of politics should not been seen as an immediate disqualifier from office, just as having a long career as a lawyer doesn’t make me less likely to hire you to represent me. Experience in all forms should be a positive, not a way to lazily attack someone’s character as opposed to their arguments

Lastly, there seems to be this flawed belief that people in power abuse their power only after being in the system for a long a period of time, which is quantifiably false.

According to FivethirtyEight, the four most corrupt states per capita all are those with some form of term limits in place for their executives/legislature, which suggests that term-limits have been ineffective in curbing corruption.

In fact, the three least corrupt states per capita, consist of two states with no laws governing term limits, and one state with partial term-limits with a eight on four off model. Clearly when we look at the data, it appears that there is a direct inverse correlation with corruption and limitations on democracy.

After deconstructing the arguments of the purported benefits of term limits, lets next move my real opposition, that they are a fundamental method of democratic subversion.

When someone advocates for term limits, they are essentially telling you that your choice of who should have the power to rule over you doesn’t matter.

Term limits do exactly such a thing, rather than forcing the opposition to a candidate to actually beat them and defeat this candidate’s supporters, they can instead silence the will of the majority through law.

By regulating how often you can seek regulation, you are destroying the very concept of democracy. What term limits literally do is state “I don’t care how much you like this person as a leader, he cannot lead you,” how much like tyranny does that sound as opposed to a democracy.

If we assume that a populace is intelligent enough to be permitted to select their leaders, we must honor their decisions of who to lead them, despite our personal opinions on the matter. No matter my opinion on any elected official, the people should always have the right to choose who they want, as opposed to having their options restricted.

Dave Owen is the  opinion editor  of   The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]