Last updated: March 26, 2009
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why should I care about term limits?
- The Constitution says nothing about term limits. Why should we have them?
- What about legislation to enforce term limits?
- How do we limit terms?
- Which offices should have limited terms?
- How many terms is the right number?
- Elected official [insert name here] has served well. Why should I chose to not reelect them?
- Why does it seem like the democrats are posted more often?
- What does TfTL get out this?
1) Why should I care about term limits?
Being an elected official has become a career. People get elected to an office and stay there. They forget what it’s like to run a business, to be an employee, to have employees, to live with the consequences of government decisions. You should care because the longer an elected official stays in office the less likely they will remember why they are there – to serve and do the will of those who elected them.
2) The Constitution says nothing about term limits. Why should we have them?
When the Founding Fathers set up our constitutional system of government, they envisioned a citizen driven legislative branch. Citizens would serve, out of a sense of public duty, a term or two, then return to their business. There was no expectation that being a member of congress was a career. It was inconceivable to them that someone would spend their life as a member of congress, or the President.
Our first president, George Washington, felt that serving more than 2 terms was inappropriate, and refused to serve a third. Every president until Franklin Roosevelt honored that tradition. Roosevelt’s arrogance of running for 4 terms prompted the 22nd Amendment, limiting presidential terms to two.
There are no constitutional term limits for the Senate or the House of Representatives. Prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment, there was some natural term limiting created by the various states’ legislatures, but that was lost upon the passing of the 17th amendment (read more). This site is about promoting the idea of voter enforced term limits. No changes in law are needed.
According to a study congressional turnover has significantly decreased since 1900. Before 1900 it was as high as 60%. Today, it is below 25%. And not only is there little turn over in congress, but congressional staff personnel remain as the elected officials come (and rarely go). Where an incumbent was running for office, they won more than 99% of the time. A system created by the legislators is one that virtually ensures an incumbent will win.
Since the 1900’s, particularly since the 17th amendment, we’ve seen the size and scope of government grow. We’ve seen increased regulation, inflation and taxation. We’ve seen men and women make congress a career and completely forget about those who put them in office.
It is the opinion of TfTL that the 17th amendment should be repealed and that the citizens simply do not keep incumbents around, no matter how “good” that incumbent seems to be. See item #7.
3) What about legislation to enforce term limits?
While many states have term limits for state offices, there are no federal term limits. Several states attempted to establish term limits for senators and representatives but the US Supreme Court declared them invalid. If all states did not limit the terms then, they argued, it would be unfair and unconstitutional. Thus, there are no federal term limits.
There have been several attempts to pass a constitutional amendment to impose term limits for federal offices. Only the 22nd Amendment, limiting the president to 2 terms, has been successful. It seems that those most needing to limit their own power are those least capable of limiting it. Constitutionally, it would only take the approval of 2/3 of the states to call a convention and then 3/4 of the states would be required to ratify it. It is unlikely that those in power will vote to limit their own power.
Clearly, legislation to limit terms won’t come from those in power. It must come from the people.
4) How do we limit terms?
Do no reelet anyone. Reelect no one. If they’re in office, vote against them in the primary. Run for office yourself, if necessary. Then, after serving your term, do not seek reelection.
5) Which offices should have limited terms?
All of them. Mostly. There would be very few exceptions, and all at the local level. Offices such as sheriff could be exempted. This type of office actually does require a special skill. But in general, the rule is that there should be new elected officials in office each election.
6) How many terms is the right number?
Even amongst those who advocate term limits disagree on how many terms is enough. Some argue 2 terms in the Senate and 3 in the House are about right. At TfTL, we advocate 1 term for any office. But you’ll have to make up your own mind.
7) Elected official [insert name here] has served well. Why should I chose to not reelect them?
With rare exception, those who have served more than one term have forgotten the “rules of the game” as outlined in the US Constitition, or various state constitions. If by “served well” you mean they’ve brought tax money to your district or state, then a careful reading of the Constitition may be in order.
Without term limits, I can understanding wanting to re-elect those who do their best to do what is right. History, however, has shown that those who do not forget are rare and the exception that proves the rule. As a rule, we advocate that all elected officials only serve one term.
8) Why does it seem like the democrats are posted more often?
Because there are more of them. And, they also seem to have more incumbents in office. In the House of Representatives alone 8 of the top 10 are democrats and 18 of the top 25 are democrats. We’re mostly posting the House in order of seniority and the Senate by whoever is currently in the news. Both are dominated by democrats, so the democrats get posted more often.
9) What does TfTL get out this?
We’re unabashed capitalists. Hopefully, we’ll make some money while we work to educate everyone about the need for real political change through term limits.
FAQ Contact Form: