In accordance with the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, the President of the United States cannot be elected more than twice. Many U.S. states apply term limits to their governors. However, members of the United States Congress (the House of Representatives and Senate) have no limits to the number of times they may be reelected.
Arguments in favorEdit
While term limits have the negative effect of making a president in his second term a lame duck, it also prevents the ruling political party from maintaining a stranglehold on the executive office. In fact, the 22nd Amendment was passed after the lengthy tenure of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was reelected three times, serving nealy four terms, until his death in office.
Some today argue that term limits should also be applied to the Legislative branch, preventing cronyism and returning the Congress to representatives of the people, instead of representatives of big business and lobbyists.
This problem is especially a problem in the house, where Congressmen serve only two year terms. This means they are constantly seeking campaign funds, often from large corporations and wealthy supporters, often from out of their home state. The situation is not much different in the senate, despite a six-year term. Senate campaigns can cost tens of millions of dollars, and the need to seek reelection - bringing with it seniority on committees that can "bring home the bacon" to their states - can tempt politicans into making their stay in the senate a lifetime career.
Another argument for term limits is that House members have redrawn the boundaries of their districts in such a way that their districts are heavily populated with supporters from their own party. This tactic, known as Gerrymandering, makes it extremely difficult to oust a sitting incumbent. The actual term is that the districts have been made "safe" for the incumbent. Further, Congressmen amass huge warchests of campaign funds - sometimes donating to other Congress members' campaigns - in order to scare off potential primary opponents.
Because of this, voters must choose what they consider to be the lesser of two evils, while a third, more favorable candidate is unable to make headway.
Criticisms and alternativesEdit
Opponents note that term limits take away voters' freedom to choose candidates they wish to represent them, undermining the concept of democracy. Further, term limits can remove elected officials who are actually fighting on behalf of the citizens or who are being fiscally and electorally responsible, thus making room for a more opportunistic "bad" elected official to take his or her place.
If the purpose of term limits is to promote turnover in office, ostensibly to curtail abuses by incumbents, then an analysis of what other factors might contribute to incumbent reelection is needed. Many would argue that plurality voting itself is the problem, with Duverger's Law leading to a two party system. This creates a false dichotomy when there actually multiple views. The solution, then, is not to limit voter choices by artificially removing candidates from consideration, but to expand voter choices by implementing a voting system that does not have these weaknesses, such as Condorcet voting.
Common ground and innovative solutionsEdit
In the spirit of this site, below is a list of ways we can spell out the common ground we share on this issue. This is what we wish politicians would say about term limits.
- Citizens could publicly state that they will withhold their votes from candidates who have violated their previous pledge to limit themselves to a certain number of terms.
- Voters could ask congressional candidates to defend the practice of Gerrymandering districts to make them "safe" for reelection.
- (add more here)