Term Limits Are Not a Good Idea

Winston Apple - January 7, 2021

Aristotle divided governments into six different types on the basis of the number of people sharing power (one, few, or many) and whether, in each case, the government was a “true” form, “in which the one, the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest” or “perversions”, where those in power govern “with a view to the private interest”.  Governments are, of course, a composed of a number of individual legislators, who can be classified individually on this same basis. 

Term limits are not a problem for corporate interests and tax-averse plutocrats who fund the campaign of politicians who are willing to serve private interests. They can come up with an endless stream of candidates who will do their bidding in exchange for being given enough money to win nearly all the time. 

Candidates who run for office intending to serve the common interest are harder to come by. They generally have a harder time raising enough money to compete effectively and if they do get elected, they are certain to face well-funded challengers every time they are up for reelection unless they are fortunate enough to live in a district that has been rendered safe for their party by gerrymandering. 

Term limits are also little more than a nuisance for career politicians who are willing and able to get elected to various offices. When you hit the term limits for a state representative, run for the state Senate. When you hit the limit for state senators, run for the U. S. House. Then the Senate. Then governor. 

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, term limits limit the choices of voters. If a majority of the voters in a state or district favor term limits, and every voter who favors term limits simply refuses to vote for any candidate who has been in office longer than whatever number of terms each voter feels should be the limit (no matter how unsavory their viable opponents may be), term limits will effectively be in place. It would get harder and harder, and eventually impossible for long-serving legislators to get reelected.   

Voters should have the option of deciding when a politician has been in office too long. Whether they have served in one office continually or in a series of offices. And voters should have the option of making exceptions when a career politician has been a good and faithful public servant and has consistently governed with a view to the common interest. 

I, for one, am grateful that Bernie Sanders has dedicated his life to public service. I do not want to see the Bernie Sanders of the future limited in the amount of service they can offer in a nation so short of dedicated public servants.

Copyright 2021 Gary Winston Apple