Sunday December 21, 2014
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OK, Tom... pecking at this slippery screen like a chicken with a Q-Tip, I'll promise you two things: 1) I will do the legwork you suggest and look into the long-term results of federal term limits. And, 2) I will continue to support a Term Limits Amendment no matter what the "evidence" shows, and I'll tell you why. Your argument against the idea is so compelling that you've solidified my resolve that this is a debate the nation needs to have. And as you know, an amendments convention would be just that - a gathering of citizens, some of whom may be legislators, but others who, like you and me, will be constitutionalists with opinions that should be vetted in the bright light of the marketplace of ideas.
Tom... working from a Kindle again this morning, so will keep my response brief.
You know better than most that it's nearly impossible to prove a negative - that politicians would not be more susceptible to corruption were they not allowed to hold office infinitum.
What I CAN prove is that the Founders had a far different vision than what we are seeing today, and this picture ain't very pretty.
Lacking empirical evidence, I suppose I'm left to appeal to logic and good old common sense... if damage they must do, then less time should result in less damage... and that's about as cynical as I'm gonna get!
PS: My use of the word obfuscation was in reference to the aforementioned foes of A5.
PPS: I also should have been more clear in stating my belief that deconstructing institutional careerism IS attacking party politics. Without the promise of lifetime tenure, they lose much leverage.
PPPS: I'm not so sure about your contention that presidents and governors are "the worst of the lot," or that having term limits has anything to do with that... but I, too, am always willing to learn! :)
PPPPS: I HATE THIS KINDLE!
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We keep sending good people to Washington, only to see them disappear into the meat-grinder that is Congress, and come out the other side just so much baloney! If there were Term Limits and the candidate knew going in that their term was limited by constitutional edict, I firmly believe that they would think twice before casting a vote on legislation that could have a severe impact on the very communities to which they themselves will soon be returning… to live among the rest of us, to work at a job like a normal person again, outside of the Beltway Bubble, forced to bear the burden of whatever damned-fool laws Congress might pass with little or no concern for the unintended consequences they have on the daily lives of real people throughout this country.
And before anyone says that removing the “perks” of congressional service will cause a brain drain, and that no one of any consequence will want to run for an office that they can only hold for such a short amount of time, I would submit that if the folks up there running things right now are the best and the brightest that money, power and prestige can buy, then I think it’s time to give some of us poor, stupid people a chance… we couldn’t possibly screw it up any worse!
This may be our best and last chance… an Article V Convention of States. I hate to say it, but I’m afraid it’s finally come to the point where it really doesn’t matter who we elect anymore, because sooner or later, once they become a member of an elite class who literally exist above the very laws that they impose upon the rest of us, coupled with the realization that they can stay there forever if they just play by the rules, there’s no longer any incentive for them to exercise any discretion whatsoever. We need to change those rules, because eventually, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between any of them, and frankly… I’ve run out of dimes.
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First things first, Tom... it's not a constitutional convention, but an amendments convention. I know it may seem like a pedantic distinction, but in this instance, when foes of the Article V movement are using scare tactics, specifically raising the specter of a total re-write of the Constitution and using the term "Con-Con" in a deliberate campaign to distort and mislead, it's critical that we do what we can to educate, not obfuscate.
But more to your point. I've spoken on this matter before... possibly even posted my thoughts on this forum, but in matters of this magnitude, they may well bear repeating. The prospect of an amendment to impose lifetime term limits on all federal officials is the primary reason that I support this movement. Since the Supreme Court ruled that the voters of a sovereign state don’t have the right to impose term limits on their own locally-elected federal delegation, I can see no other way for us ever to bring an end to career politicians, including those who wear black robes to work.
Resolving that one issue, I believe, would go a very long way toward eliminating many of the most pressing issues that we face. Washington, DC, without a doubt, has become the most powerful, some would say corrupt, city in the world, and no one who enters its enormous sphere of influence can help but be changed by it... and usually not for the better.
It’s almost become trite to say, but with very few exceptions, virtually every politician’s top priority, regardless of party, platform or principle, is to get re-elected. As soon as they arrive, they are surrounded by and steeped in the career mentality that pervades Washington, D.C. It is imposed on them, infused into them, particularly by the old dogs, the veterans, the party leaders, and soon the urgency of becoming a part of that culture of power supersedes anything they may have promised during their campaign. The wants and needs of the people who sent them there – the folks back home – all take a back seat to the new imperative – raise money for the Party, and ultimately for re-election.
In order for a newly elected candidate to maintain the party’s financial support come election time, deals are made that have nothing to do with what’s in the best interest of the voters back home. Legislation is passed at the direction of the party leadership, for instance, without a single legislator having read it. Does any of this sound anything like what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they coined the term, “Citizen Legislator”?
Anyone looking for a good reason to support Mandatory Term Limits for all federal officials need look no further than the headlines. After the most resounding electoral triumph since 1947, Republican Congressional “leaders” were too afraid to do what they were elected to do – check the president's unilateral amnesty grant. They were too afraid to do what’s right for the country, too afraid that they won’t be re-elected. Job One for the Party Elite has become protecting their private power structure, not the Constitution.
During the last legislative session here in Arizona, a majority of constitutional conservatives supported legislation that would have allowed our state legislators to join 33 other states in a national convention to devise a way to end the era of the career politician by proposing, among other things, constitutionally mandated term limits on all federal elected officials. Many believed, as did the Founding Fathers, that our federal delegation should spend their terms in Washington, DC, focused on what’s best for their constituents, not their careers, that they should serve their country for a limited time, then return to their communities and live among the rest of us in the world that they helped to create.
That legislation failed due to time constraints, but a similar bill will be introduced again this year. In preparation, we should all read Article V of the US Constitution. It gives state legislatures the power and authority to circumvent a recalcitrant Congress and propose constitutional remedies, such as term limits or a balanced budget requirement, changes which must then be ratified by 38 states.
Congress will never impose such limits on itself. Article V is a tool provided by the Founders to be used at such a time when Congress ceases to represent its constituency. We should familiarize ourselves with these 143 words, imagining as we read the wisdom and the courage that it took for the Framers of the Constitution to include them. Then we should contact our state representatives and encourage them to do the same... not to save their careers, but to save the republic.
First, I must apologize for not responding sooner... we're still out of town. Secondly, I'm working from a Kindle... an amazing little device, but it's just that - little. Its size seems to limit my thoughts to smaller, more abbreviated ones... and maybe that's a good thing!
Anyway, great discussion! Particularly the piece about returning power to the states via constitutional amendment. I, too, would distrust a 50%+1 solution, particularly if it were decided by popular vote. That's one of the problems with the US Senate - Senators no longer represent the state legislators, as envisioned by the Founders... they are the winners of a state-wide popularity contest, nothing more. Political ads have way too much influence (good or bad) over the electorate to expect a wise outcome on any issue.
I would, however, support some sort of arrangement that involved ratification of certain issues by the state legislatures, leaving it to our representatives to decide the most controversial matters. Require 2/3 of the state houses to approve certain federal actions, whether Congressional or Executive... or even Judicial. No ratification, no action.
There can be little argument that the federal triumvirate has botched our representative republic beyond the point of recognition. Inserting an additional check against tyranny - that being the voice closest to the people - just might return a semblance.of balance to the mix, and.it couldn't possibly make things any worse.
Sure... like a Rules Committee for the people... to determine constitutionality on its face, not on intent or political expediency. I like it... call it the COP... Constitutional Ombudsman for the People.
The most disturbing thing, though, is the silence among the oppressed, the abused, the people. I see a lot of complaining about the problem, but little to no movement toward a solution, even when one is handed to them. It's truly distressing.
It makes me wonder why the abstention... why the avoidance... why the restraint? It can't be simple ignorance, because we, as a people, are more aware today than at any time since Al Gore invented the Internets! And I don't want to believe that it's fear, although the Beast that we have allowed to expand and multiply is clearly out of its cage and on the hunt. Is it apathy... lethargy... or just an overwhelming weariness?
Whatever the cause, I see too many people doing nothing... nothing but carping... just shuffling along toward the day when they'll notice the chains at their feet, look up and ask how this happened.
Yes... ignoring the law, and knowing that there will be no meaningfull consequence... that is the issue. The Constitution is fine - its scope and its intent - all it needs is some TEETH, and we can do that. We must. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
There can be little doubt or credible argument that the results of the recent midterm election spoke plainly the sentiment of the majority of the American electorate… those concerned enough about the current state of the nation to actually cast a vote. Whether measured by party or policy, it is clear that the over-arching desire of those voters is to have a more cooperative and conservative hand at the helm of government, at all levels, from local legislative districts and governorships to congressional representatives and senators.
Elections should matter. When they don’t, we forfeit the right to lay claim to being a representative republic. When our leaders chose to ignore the suffrage that men and women have fought and died for, and resolve instead to govern in direct defiance of the will of the governed, they are no longer leaders but tyrants. The Constitution defines for us the standards for just and competent leadership, but when leadership fails, that cherished text is silent on the consequences. It shouldn't be.
The Founders of this nation, in their God-given wisdom, anticipated the day when the federal government would become so removed from the people in the states that it would simply cease to respond to their wants and needs, and would sense no fear in doing so. It was one of those Founders, Thomas Jefferson, who concluded that when government fears the people, there is liberty… but when the people fear their government, there is tyranny.
The steady decline of our political culture has finally brought us to the point where the word “shall” now requires the force of “or else.” As a remedy short of revolution, they provided us in Article V of the Constitution the power and authority to repair the errors that we detect in the process of self-governance, to be used at a time when it becomes apparent that government will not repair itself. The time is now, and that remedy is an amendments convention, or a Convention of States to Propose Amendments to the Constitution. There is a solution as big as the problem: ConventionOfStates.com
Irrespective of our political philosophy or on which side of the aisle our sensibilities lie, there are few among us who are not concerned with the recent display of impolitic conflict between the legislative and executive branches of our federal government. Routine skirmishes and grandstanding have become the norm in our increasingly polarized environment, but the events of this last week – the unilateral de-criminalization of millions of illegal aliens under the tortured guise of prosecutorial discretion - far exceeds the usual.
Atop the list of attributes that make the structure of our republican federalism the world’s benchmark for self-governance is our constitutional system of checks and balances. For almost 2¼ centuries it has ensured against the disproportionate amassing of power among any of the three co-equal branches of government.
As mandated by our Constitution, it is and has always been the prerogative of the legislature to conceive the law, that of the executive to enforce the law, and that of the judicial to review the law. This unique design was a product of the brilliance of the Founders, having just shrugged off the heavy-handed affliction of a distant and arrogant monarchy - that no single entity or individual should ever again have the authority to rule over a free people simply by decree.
Certainly a president is expected to lead, not just the nation in terms of direction, but in the establishment of policy and even in the creation of law. The latter, however, by law and by longstanding tradition, has typically been accomplished by varying methods of persuasion, motivation and influence. Some presidents have been more effective in their manner of inducement, while others have been less so.
One of the greatest benefits of our electoral system is the primary process, where candidates for chief executive are thoroughly vetted for their most critical attributes, with management capability being very high on that list. As a result, Americans have a long history, with but a few notable exceptions, of electing strong and capable presidents, all of whom demonstrated the most valuable skill of any executive: Leadership.
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