10 Reasons We Absolutely Need Term Limits for all Elected Officials
It is said that the ancient Greeks perfected the concept of democracy. Today, the United States of America uses a variation on this system called known as a “representative democracy.” In a representative democracy, the citizens have a choice in determining who will speak for them as an elected official. In a true democracy, the citizens have a say in every decision made by the government. Because the daily governance of the country is so complex, every citizen cannot have a say in each decision. Imagine being called to vote for the purchase of every hammer, nail or simply to pay the heating bill of government buildings each month. This could never work in a large, modern nation. Therefore representatives must be chosen to work for the common good.Unfortunately, many elected officials can obtain too much power or authority over time making their representation of the citizens less representative. No one person should have too much power and for too long. It is far too easy for elected officials to become out-of-touch with their constituency. With that said, the concept of term limits minimizes the amount of power any one person can gain over a period of time. It ensures that a new voice can be heard when representing populations to keep the views and wishes of the people new and fresh. Here are the ten best reasons why we must absolutely have term limits for every elected office.
10. No Specific Political Party Can Keep Control Indefinitely
In the United States, there are multiple political parties, but only two parties are considered to be major players. This has not always been the case, but over time, two parties have emerged as the only parties with significant representation. These are the Democrats and Republicans. Without term limits, community leaders with business interests, property, financial means, etc. will throw their support behind the incumbent much more often. This is because they are already in a position of power. Without term limits, there is no pre-determined end to a single person’s ability to keep an elected office. If one party can manage to get a particular individual elected to a position, without term limits, the likelihood that they can keep that seat indefinitely is more likely.
Term limits means that after a period of time, the playing field will once again be leveled and a seat will be open without an incumbent. Of course, anyone can be challenged at any election cycle, but the incumbent has a certain advantage. Political parties have an easier time predicting the jobs and districts that they can control without term limits. But when it is “anyone’s game” after a certain number of terms, it makes it up for grabs. This can open the door to third party (parties other than Republicans or Democrats) candidate having the potential to get elected if there is ample opportunity through term limits.
9. Fewer Career Politicians
Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.comPublic servants that serve in elected positions are supposed to represent the interests of the citizens. This is supposed to be a service to society as a whole. Working in an elected position is not intended as a profession, although it has become a career for many people through the years. There’s a case to be made that the best public servants are those that realize that they are doing the work of the people for a period of time until it is someone else’s turn. This article summarizes nicely why state and local governments do so well with term limits.
Term limits keep fresh ideas and perspectives in public offices. It ensures that no one individual can focus more on keeping a job and a certain level of power, than representing the public. Decisions will be made more carefully, because the servant in the particular position will again return to the citizenship without the title or power. If a public official knows that they will only have the opportunity to hold a particular job for a certain number of years, even if re-elected, they will not be as likely to consider public service as a career. There is something very noble about doing the work of the people as a service and not a job. Term limits establish this perception very nicely.
8. Less Corruption
Politicians have developed over the course of time, a reputation for being corrupt and unconcerned with their constituents. This stereotypical cliché is founded on some degree of truth due to some bad apples. The common thread with most politicians that have become more corrupt seems to be the length of time most of them have served. Usually, it seems that corruption seems to happen as time goes on in the career of a politician. Term limits seem to make this less likely because there is less time that a politician can be influenced by the power of the office that they hold.
The argument for congressional term limits has been made from time-to-time over the years with many in favor for the simple reason of cleaning out some of the corruption in Congress. Gaining momentum, some members of Congress have even proposed constitutional amendments that layout specifically how many terms both Representatives and Senators could serve before leaving office. Read the article outlining the different ideas for what Congressional term limits would look like.
It’s very sad that the potential for corruption even exists. People should want to serve simply for the sake of being leaders and good citizens. This seems to always be the way public servants start, but along the way something goes wrong. Unfortunately, the goal becomes simply “getting re-elected” rather than doing the right thing for people. While all, or even most elected leaders are not corrupt, those that are have fallen victim to the influence of power over the course of time.
7. More Opportunities For Leadership in Communities
There are a lot of great individuals that have a lot of untapped potential for leadership in communities all over the country. With no term limits, the same people keep the same offices for years upon years, in some cases for several decades. Term limits clear the ballot after a certain number of terms and allow a new group of potential candidates to make themselves known to their constituents and try for the office. Term limits have created the opportunity for younger people to get elected to public office, because there are more opportunities that present themselves. Without term limits, many talented potential leaders will simply not run for a particular office because of the challenges and battles of running against an incumbent.
Communities have a tendency to thrive when there are more people involved in community service. Of course community service is not limited to those elected to public office. Many people volunteer, or serve on community committees and commissions. This sparks interest in many people to run for elected offices. Term limits give more opportunities to individuals to share their talents and ideas for the betterment of the community, state or national government. Young people have the chance to get involved and serve in elected offices and tend to attract other young people to civic activity and political activism. Having service-oriented people serving in different elected positions, provides variety and strength to the citizenship.
6. More Options For Voters
In positions and communities without term limits, certain elected positions will often go without an opponent because no one wants to challenge the incumbent. The essay“What Term Limits Do That Ordinary Voting Cannot” discusses this point in great depth. Running a political campaign is hard work and incredibly expensive. When there is a reasonable chance that the expense and effort that goes into a campaign could result in a complete defeat, most potentially qualified candidates won’t run unless they fully believe they can win. This is one of the unfortunate side effects of not having term limits. Voters deserve a choice and they deserve the right to be well informed about the candidates. Having a wider pool of candidates more often, gives voters a chance to see new people and find out their thoughts and beliefs.
Some states provide for the opportunity to recall public officials. This allows for even more control on the part of the citizenship. A recall allows for an elected official to once again run a campaign with possible opposition even before the expiration of their normal term. Just knowing that this is a possibility is another level of accountability that gives citizens more control over their elected officials.
They get the chance to see who the candidates are and what they have accomplished in their lives to warrant their candidacy as a leader. When no one runs against an incumbent, the voters have no choice. This can be as a result of increased financial backing over the years and not because of the wonderful job the incumbent has done. If an incumbent is reelected, it should be because they have done a good and admirable job representing the people. Not because other, more qualified people couldn’t financially mount an opposition.