KingMidget's Ramblings

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Donald Trump’s First Priority

I saw a short clip of Trump’s speech yesterday.  The one in which he outlined what he would do in his first 100 days as President.  If I heard it correctly, he indicated that the first thing he would to is seek a constitutional amendment that would provide for term limits for members of Congress.

I know this is a popular idea, with wide appeal among not only the conservatives among us, but also plenty of liberals.  I get it.  There’s a certain amount of “throw the bums out” mentality that makes sense.  The system is dysfunctional, politicians don’t seem responsive to the American people.  They don’t fix the problems our country faces.  Therefore, we must do something different.  Term limits.  Throw the damn bums out.


But what if that actually makes the system worse?

California has had term limits for all statewide officials and for all members of the Legislature for 20 years.  It is a system that has failed to make things any better than they were and as far as I’m concerned have harmed our political system.

Without term limits, many politicians get elected to a body (city council, board of supervisors, state Assembly, state Senate, etc.) and can remain there — developing expertise and a sense of loyalty to the institution of which they are a part.  They do not need to concern themselves with what will be the next office they run for.  They can establish themselves in that body and use their developing expertise in one place with consistency and stability.  Because of the power and influence they obtain by remaining in that body over the years, they can compete with the power of special interests and lobbyists.

With term limits, those politicians are always looking to the next office they need to aspire to if they want to continue their career in politics.  They don’t develop loyalty to the institution because they will only be there for a few years — instead, they develop an interest in what the institution can do for them for the next office they aspire to.  They don’t develop an expertise that they can then use in that body for years to come … because they won’t be there for years to come.  Instead, they end up relying more and more and more on the unaccountable special interests and lobbyists to feed them information and tell them what they should do.

In a world of term limits, it is the special interests, lobbyists, and consultants who hold the power.

If you think the point of all of this is that we don’t want professional politicians, than you’re ignoring that that is a battle that has been lost.  There have always been and will always be a group of people who desire to make their mark in the political arena — and I’m not sure why that is viewed with such negativity.  And ultimately, with the role of money and special interests in our political system, something I’m not sure is a desirable objective.  Politicians who are ultimately answerable to the voters every two, four, or six years, or special interests and their consultants and lobbyists who owe the voters nothing.

If, like Trump, you support term limits, you stand for the latter instead of the former.  I really wish we could get rid of this idea of term limits once and for all.  They have made things worse in California, as they would in Congress.




12 responses to “Donald Trump’s First Priority

  1. Kevin Brennan October 23, 2016 at 8:06 am

    I’ve always thought of this as “term limits … for the other party.” That’s the real intent, I think, to remove the thorns in your side. But I agree with you completely. If you want lobbyists to run the place, put in term limits.

    • kingmidget October 23, 2016 at 8:18 am

      That’s the problem with term limits. Everybody thinks it will only kick out the bad ones — the other guys (and gals). But it kicks all of them out after such a brief period of service. I might be okay with term limits if they were significant longer.

      If you’ve lived in California long enough, you’ll recall that Willie Brown was the reason for term limits here. The Ayatollah of the Assembly, who spent years in that body and years as its Speaker. He ruled like a dictator. And while there were some unfortunate side effects to that, he also achieved quite a bit of good for California. My previous boss, Bill Lockyer, served in the Senate for more than 20 years, until term limits were passed and he was kicked out as a result. There was a time when people stayed in one house and mastered things. And because they were there so long, they had to develop working relationships with others who were there, even those on the other side of the aisle. Not anymore. The only people who are there over the long haul are the lobbyists and consultants. They’re the ones who hold the power now.

  2. Don October 23, 2016 at 11:23 am

    I agree with you, Mark. Term limits in theory sounded nice, but in practice it made politicians more shortsighted. It also made fundraising an even greater priority, which actually increased the influence of money in politics.

  3. hirundine608 October 23, 2016 at 11:40 am

    How are term limits working in the Executive branch? Cheers Jamie.

    • kingmidget October 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Pretty certain Obama would win if he could run again and that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Pretty certain Jerry Brown would win if he could run again and that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      • hirundine608 October 23, 2016 at 11:50 am

        So, obviously, there is a good case to be made for maintaining the status quo? The founding fathers, in their wisdom, sought to provide a balance of powers in the US. federal government. I’m always reluctant to tinker with something that may not always work well, yet is essential for it to work properly. Like the Canadian senate. Cheers Jamie.

      • kingmidget October 23, 2016 at 11:51 am

        I agree. And there were no term limits in the Constitution.

  4. Bumba October 23, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    If people don’t like the incumbents they should exercise their power and vote them out. Term limits circumvent the voters.

    • kingmidget October 24, 2016 at 6:45 am

      I agree. Unfortunately, far too many people think term limits are an “easy fix.” I have no doubt that if it were up to the voters term limits for Congress would pass in a landslide and 20 years later Congress would be even worse than it is now.

      • Bumba October 24, 2016 at 8:22 am

        Yikes. Luckily for the Congressmen, they can remain in D.C. As lobbyists.

      • hirundine608 October 24, 2016 at 9:38 am

        For as many “ppor” congresspeople, there may be? Who knows, not I? It would be a shame if the good ones were tossed because of a limitation around terms. To work well, you need experienced representatives, who do the work they’re elected for. Lord knows, they are well compensated. Like another commentator pointed out. Just exercise your vote if you’re not happy. Too many do not because they feel the system is rigged? Maybe it is? If each eligible voter is participating, that makes the process more difficult to corrupt. Cheers Jamie

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