Time to Limit Terms and Power
Though I’m reminded daily of my many blessings, November is the month specifically set aside for giving thanks, and I highly doubt I’m alone in being thankful that the bitter and divisive 2016 presidential campaign will finally end. While political pundits will analyze the results ad nauseam, conservative activists will continue working diligently during the lame duck session of Congress to minimize detrimental legislation and spending decisions which typically occur during such sessions. Unfortunately, those efforts are too often in vain because we face a system so completely broken in which ordinary citizens have little to no real influence over those who profess to represent us.
For most of my adult voting life, I have optimistically believed that citizens held the power through our election process to term limit those members of Congress who failed to adequately represent the folks back home, and I have been cautious in regards to term limit legislation. Perhaps the ballot box was more effective at some point in the distant past, but only in rare situations does it now occur at the federal level. Recent polling by two firms, Gallup and eraquest Research*, indicate that 75 percent of Americans want to see congressional term limits, and I am now of the belief that it is past time for citizens to demand those limits.
Previous attempts at congressional term limits were successful in passing for 23 congressional delegations at the state legislative level, but those efforts were struck down in 1995 by a Supreme Court 5-4 ruling in U.S. Term Limits vs Thornton. That ruling determined that congressional term limits must be enacted by constitutional amendment, a process that has proven unlikely to ever come to fruition by sitting members of Congress.
But thanks to the vision of our founders, our U.S. Constitution provides the mechanism for such an amendment to be initiated at the state level, and enables citizens to circumvent a Congress that has become so far removed from those it represents that it threatens the liberty obtained with the founding of our nation.
Our constitutional tool is provided in the form of an Article V Convention of the States convened with one purpose only - congressional term limits.
I’ve read and heard all the arguments against an Article V Convention as there are many conservative factions which vehemently oppose one for the fear of a “runaway convention” with designs to dismantle our current Constitution. But an Article V convention for term limits would not be a Constitutional Convention, referred to as a “Con-Con” which could lead to a significant re-writing of our Constitution, nor would it have the power to amend our Constitution for any purpose other than term limits.
If we are to ever have significant influence as ordinary citizens with our congressional delegations, we must term limit each and every one we elect to serve. We term limit presidents, state governors, and numerous other offices at the state level, so why are members of Congress exempt from the same limits on their power?
Incumbents at the federal level are almost impossible to defeat, and challengers to those offices are faced with the reality of trying to compete against enormous war chests that incumbents accumulate via Washington, DC fundraising efforts. The full extent of the entrenchment of incumbents did not hit me until I read the above cited report which states:
A quarter of Congress has been in office for more than 16 years. Nearly half of Congress has been in office for more than eight. By 2016, nine members will have been in office for more than 40 years.*
This is not public service as our founders intended – this is a lucrative career, and the end result is a political ruling class that pays far more attention to the special interests which fund their campaigns than to the citizens they are supposed to represent.
Power of citizens has been transferred over time into the hands of the tenured few when it should belong to the states by virtue of the 10th Amendment. Term limits would greatly reduce this federal power by allowing less senior members of Congress to participate in leadership roles and thereby leveling the playing field of the current top-seniority power structure. Additionally, campaign contributions by the current DC power brokers would naturally decrease without the incentive to keep favored incumbents in for decades. Further, those reduced contributions would shift the odds of a challenger’s ability to succeed in a congressional race and force candidates to focus on issues instead of fundraising for high-dollar campaigns.
Congressional term limits will only happen from a grassroots endeavor through our state legislatures, and an effort is currently underway to bring forth a resolution for a Term Limits Convention in the next Alabama legislative session. If you agree that it’s time for our U.S. Constitution to work for the citizens as our founders intended, this is your opportunity for your voice to be heard.
*Cited from “The Term Limits Convention Handbook for Lawmakers”, distributed by U.S. Term Limits, a Washington, D.C. and Florida-based nonprofit specializing in term limit legislation.
Marcia Chambliss serves on the leadership team of Smart Girl Politics, http://www.smartgirlpolitics.com, an online community for conservative women. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Her views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart Girl Politics.
The views of this editorial may not express the views of The Alabama Gazette.