Sisters Talking On…Term Limits for Elected Officials

Point for Discussion:

Government by representation of the people. This is the basis of our democracy. We control who gets elected and, in theory, they represent our interests in Washington DC. Hah.  Nice thought.  Given the partisanship of recent decades, and current abuses of power, it seems like the only one represented by these officials are themselves.  They spend most of their time protecting their potential for re-election.

Our Points of View:

(Lynn)

For many years now, partisanship in Washington DC has trumped (no pun intended) progress in our Federal Government. We, the American people, elect representation that should be going to Washington and working to preserve and improve our quality of life in this country.

We elect those we believe will represent our thoughts, hopes and dreams for an ever-improving quality of life. Instead, we get partisanship, roadblocks to progress, internal party squabbling, and elected officials who worry more about getting re-elected than working toward a better America.

Term limits are in place for the President so that we don’t end up with an elected monarchy.  This is a valid concern in our democracy, especially now.  As we see in other nations, an unlimited number of terms creates a leader that has so much power they are able to control elections to ensure they remain in office for as long as they want to whether or not they are acting in the best interests of the general population of the country.

Here in the United States, our checks and balances system of government includes three branches with different term lengths.  The executive branch has a two term limit to prevent an elected monarchy situation.  The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court.  Justices are nominated and confirmed for lifetime appointments.  And our Legislative branch is elected by the people of the nation every two to four years. While our senators and reps are elected for relatively short terms, several of our senators and representatives have served for decades.  Social norms change far more often than our elected representatives.

This can have its benefits of course.  Experienced lawmakers should, in theory, be able to get more done.  They know the system and understand what it takes to get legislation passed. You would think that with all of that experience, the larger issues in this country would be dealt with in a timely manner with the best interests of the American people at the forefront.

I don’t see so much of that. What I see is Congressional representatives and senators that get caught up in partisan politics, squabbling amongst themselves focused more on re-election than progress.  I have been shocked by the ineffectiveness of Congress over the past two decades.

Specifically,

  1. Supreme Court nominees that were not confirmed in the last year of a Presidential term.
  2. Representatives that vote the party line even if they disagree with it.
  3. Representatives that agree with a President in order to preserve their re-election chances even if they and/or their constituents disagree.

Our elected officials have become ineffective over time as partisan politics has taken control.  How does this represent the preservation and promotion of our democracy?  And more, as social mores change and progress, how does representation that has done things the same way for decades continue to represent the hearts and minds of all Americans.

The 22nd amendment to the Constitution set term limits for the office of the President so that America would not be led by an elected monarchy.  Thankfully, this means an unpopular, but somehow electable, leader will not be foisted upon us for more than eight years.  Given that the population has different views on issues, this allows us to replace the President pretty often.  It seems sometimes, though, that citizens take a “devil that you know is better than the devil you don’t know” approach to voting. This has allowed our representation to become complacent and, to a certain extent, get lazy, vote with their party and/or their President, and move on.  Is that really what we want them to do?

How does this protect the rights and interests of ALL Americans?  Our elected representatives need to check their Party at the door and do what’s best for the country and its citizens. If they can’t find a way to do that, then we need term limits at a minimum.

If that doesn’t work then maybe we should consider votes of confidence for a particular party as other nations do and remove the Party in charge if they fail to represent our interests.  This could require national support for more than two political parties requiring congress to compromise between parties to get legislation passed. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!

 

(Laurie)

I agree with Lynn that term limits have the potential to encourage progress by bringing in new representation and addressing new/current issues.  If I were to poll a sample of the population, it’s likely that most would agree and support this idea  – in concept.  In practice, however, with a few exceptions, we are seeing new representation, but supporting old party lines – with party lines that are too radical on both ends (e.g., abortion restrictions on one end and Medicare for all on the other), rather than a middle ground of effective compromise.

A current example is the plan for bipartisan discussion about funding infrastructure – something all would agree is needed – but is overshadowed by inaction (e.g., leadership stating that “no bipartisan negotiation or deals will be made with investigations in progress”).  Does this mean that we have lost all hope of action by our representatives?

We have terms limits to motivate change and freshen ideas.  We have the three branches of government to provide checks and balances to help ensure that no one is above the law in law-making, and we have a population that is demanding action in a number of key areas, including, but not limited to:

  • Re-productive rights
  • Social change
  • Climate change
  • Education
  • Automation and technology
  • Energy
  • International actions
  • And so much more

All of these issues are more important to the Country than partisanship.

Following are some thoughts for solutions:

  • What if a short list of critical issues for the Country for 2019 were identified and prioritized, and committees were required to deliver a solution (or options) within a set timetable? (Something like a stage-gate process where we move from ideas to feasibility to final vote among the population rather than Congress alone, given that we/the people are funding all initiatives).

 

  • What if the partisan politics were a parallel path rather than the main event? If our representatives must partake in these games, they should occur on the sidelines without inhibiting progress in America.

 

  • What if term limits were to evolve to one term only for all, and candidates that want to leave a legacy of impactful change focus all of their energy on their actions during their term, rather than worrying about re-election?

 

  • If elections were all based on popular vote, and candidates ran on their beliefs, regardless of party affiliation (or non-affiliation), they could optimize their effectiveness during their single term and do the job they are elected to do.

 

  • Lastly (for now), since it is often about the money, tax dollars could be used to reward the team who makes progress based on impact (e.g., if a solution accelerates change or saves money, or another objective), as decided by the population they represent.

A “term limit,” limited to one term (# of years dependent on the role), could shift the paradigm for leadership from re-election back to representation.

 

Our Question for You:

How would you set term limits for those who represent you in government?

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