Too many people believe we will get better government by making sure no one in congress gets to stay there for a long time. I don’t know why inexperience would mean better government. In what other field do we prefer raw recruits to veterans? Would you want an inexperienced surgeon? A lawyer fresh out of law school?
Why do you want amateurs making your laws?
Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits. Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded The Constitution) showed them that good people are not interested in temp jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. Those elected to office walked away from their positions — or never took them up in the first place. There was no future in it.
When the Constitution was drawn, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest to government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs and parvenus. The business of governing a nation has a learning curve. It takes years to get the hang of how things work, how a law gets written. How to reach across the aisle and get the opposition to participate.
The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. They failed. Miserably. Do we need to learn the same lesson again?
The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.
A little more history
Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future and their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs, much less support families.
Term limits were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They were right. The Constitution’s aims to get professionals into government.
Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government. It becomes a very hard temp job with no future.
Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid
Maybe they are paid more than you and me, but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, they are paid poorly. What you cry? How can that be?
Most members of congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year. A third year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.
Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send the kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of congress have other income streams.
Curiously, our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. And they would be less susceptible to bribery. On the whole, they were right. What they didn’t foresee was how many kinds of corruption would be available. Bribery is the least of our problems.
Skill and experience count
Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by the courts and other members of congress takes years. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.
We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old-time pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of old guard, the folks who understand how to work with the opposition to make the process work. It’s the newly elected morons who are stopping progress. Sadly, our experienced old-timers got old and retired. Or died. They have been replaced by imbeciles.
Above and beyond the skill it take to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and peer respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and accomplish miracles. Newly elected congresspeople hope to build a career in politics. With luck, one or two of them will become a great legislator, a Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob Dole, Ted Kennedy or another of the giants. Anyone you name connected to important legislation was a multi (many) term representative or senator.
Term limits eliminate all chance of having great legislators
Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around congress. As soon as they figure out where the toilets are and get reasonably good at their jobs, they’ll be gone. Does that make sense? Really?
If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better.
If you don’t elect them, they won’t be in congress
We have term limits. These are called elections. Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were an awful idea in 1788 and they haven’t improved with time. Among the biggest concerns Democrats had about Barack Obama in 2008 was he didn’t have enough experience, hadn’t been in the senate long enough. With term limits, no one would ever have enough experience. Where would we get candidates suitable to be President?
We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates. We need men and women willing to learn the craft, who have ideas and can work with others to get America’s business done. Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on 435 congressmen and 100 senators.
The President doesn’t run the country
Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people to make laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.
Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault
The 535 members of congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like one, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure that a lot of people vote for that candidate. You may not like him, but other people do. That’s what elections are about. It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve the problems. Make the job more — not less — attractive so better people will want to go into government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one will want.
It’s close to that already. Mention going into politics to an ambitious young person. Watch him or her recoil in horror.
Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation … and we need to agree what that means, at least in broad strokes. Term limits won’t fix the problem, because that’s not what’s broken.
A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
When I read this comment, it was posted in regard to the YouTube video of President Barack Obama’s dedication speech at yesterday’s MLK Memorial. I was horrified :
“… the Republicans and Democrats hold hands behind your backs. It’s like pro wrestling, they act like they’re enemies in front of you but are good friends behind you. Why do you think they always agree on the key issues and have been seen many times spending time together, attending functions together, and even eating together. It is all a hoax to control the people. Research Obama’s evil policies he has instilled without the public knowledge. He will end life as you know, impeach this traitor!”
Is anyone really that naïve? It’s not his politics that appall me, though they are appalling. It’s his belief that people who disagree can’t be friends.
Of course they are friends. They work together, eat together and know each others’ wives and kids. They are human beings, not only politicians. Just as the district attorney, the defense attorneys and the judges are friends.
Does anyone really think otherwise? Why would they not be friends? They are not on opposing teams. Quite the opposite: everyone in Congress is on the same team. American. The good of the nation is what they are supposed to stand for, not their party and its politics. They represent us, but ultimately, they represent the country.
Does this person also think baseball or football players on opposing teams don’t socialize off the field? That our professional lives so dominate us we don’t also have personal lives?
To know there are so many people who hate so much they have lost touch with reality scares me more than anything else going on in this country.
Regardless, it’s a fine speech, no matter what your political persuasion may be. I have posted it so if you missed it, you can catch up.
We are all people first. We aren’t what we do or even what we believe. We aren’t Republicans, Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives. We are men and women, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Sisters and brothers. Friends. Above all else, human. There are — and ought to be — allegiances which supersede political labels. Too many people are too busy hating to remember tolerance, reconciliation and love.
Intolerance is the evil we must forever fight. It’s the cause of war, murder, genocide and cruelty. It has saturated all of history with blood. It’s the thing that is fundamentally wrong with the world.
While I was deep into the A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time), the final volume of Robert Jordan, now Brandon Sanderson‘s epic story of good versus evil, Garry was watching the Inauguration. I had forgotten today was Inauguration day but he had not. My bad.
When you aren’t working or going to school, it’s easy to not know what day of the week it is, much less if it’s a holiday. I often don’t know what day of the week it is, though because I blog and pay bills, I’m pretty aware of the day of month.
As much as Garry dislikes political mud-slinging, he loves the ceremonies that mark America‘s traditions. For him, an inauguration is not the inauguration of a Democrat or a Republican … it’s the inauguration of an American President and he enjoys it, even if it isn’t a candidate for whom he voted. It’s American, not political.
He wrote something about it on Facebook and at least one person went into a political tirade about how he voted for Obama but wished he’d had another choice. Garry pointed out this wasn’t political. It was a celebration, the peaceful affirmation of our power that is far more American than apple pie.
Granted that other countries now have peaceful transfers of power, but only the U.S. from its birth made this a symbol of what we are as a nation … that no matter how hard-fought the campaign, when the votes are counted, the winner takes his place in the White House without violence or bloodshed. The ballot box is where we settle our differences, not the streets and not with weapons.
My take on this is simple: there are far too many people who have forgotten how to be Americans. They are so wedded to party politics, to a set of “positions,” that they are incapable, even for a single day, of just being Americans.
It seems that these folks are constantly gloating (“my guy is IN and your guy is OUT nyah nyah nyah!”) or whining (“We wuz cheated!”). Whether you fall on the side of the gloaters or whiners, if you want to make any claim to being an American or any kind of patriot, you need to be an American first and foremost, with your political affiliation secondary.
If you cannot do that, you really have no idea what this country is about.
- Obama’s Inauguration … and Mine (jessieeps.tumblr.com)
- Happy MLK and Inauguration Day! (sassncurlz.com)
- Meet the First Woman to Ever Deliver a Presidential Inaugural Invocation (jezebel.com)
- Working Together For a Better America: The Inauguration, Dr. Cornel West, and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (beyondbelles.com)
- Inauguration 2013 of Barack Obama (anniyang.wordpress.com)
Today I read a rant on Facebook by someone who still can’t accept the cruel reality that the election ended and his candidate lost. He declares that President Barack Obama is not his president, will never be his president. As if he gets to pick his own personal President, separate from the inconvenience of a legal election.
I feel obliged to point out that if you are an American citizen, the legally elected President of the United States is your President, whether you like him, voted for him — or not. If you are unhappy with the results of the election and you are a citizen of this nation, you have only two choices.
- Obey the laws of this country including accepting the duly elected President as your President and as your Commander-in-Chief.
- Abandon your identity as an American, renounce your citizenship, and move to another country if you can find one that will have you.
There is no other choice until 2016 and there’s no guarantee that you’ll like the results of that election any better than you liked this one. Until then, Barack Obama is your president, my president, and the President of every other citizen of this country. You do not have a choice. This is a nation of laws which we follow even when it’s not convenient or easy. That is the price you pay for living in a democracy.
You cannot claim to be a patriot while simultaneously rejecting our system of government. I have lived through presidencies of men I thoroughly disliked, for whom I didn’t vote, and who I thought were harming our nation and myself, but I never had the temerity– or disrespect — to declare that the President wasn’t my President.
I believe in our system of government, laws, and justice system. It’s not perfect, but it’s way better than most. I don’t make a big deal about it. I don’t wrap myself in the flag. I just follow the laws, try to work within the system to effect change. I vote. I don’t trust people who make a big fuss about how patriotic they are. The more noise they make, the more I wonder what they are hiding.
I’m fed up with self-declared patriots who are not merely unpatriotic, but actually treasonous. If you don’t like our system of government, go somewhere you like better, but don’t tell me you’re a patriot. You’re not.
- It Is Finished: Win or Lose, Obama Introduces the Syncretic Age (theamericansnc.com)
- The 2012 Election: Defining True Patriotism (midwyfecrisis.wordpress.com)
- Dalai Lama sends Obama congratulation letter on re-election (wtvr.com)
I am terribly disappointed in a lot of my fellow Americans. They seem bound and determined to cause as much trouble as they can because their candidates lost the election. They don’t seem to care how many problems they make for the rest of us because they don’t recognize we have rights too, or that our opinions matter. They don’t get the whole “democracy” thing. They want what they want, everyone and everything else be damned.
I’m no expert, but I’ve been around a while. As far as I recall, the way our electoral process works, each time we have an election a lot of people come up on the losing team. One side wins; the other loses. This has been true since John Adams.
George Washington ran unopposed so it wasn’t an issue for him, but don’t think that protected him from being shredded by the press while he was President. By the time he was done with his second term, he said he’d rather be hanged than serve a third.
The battle over a strong central government versus more power for the states was the primary issue dividing Americans in 1792. It was the issue that pushed this country into two opposing political parties and this split viewpoint preceded the revolution itself.
It has always been with us. In its own way, this division is as fundamental to the structure of our body politic as our laws. It resulted in the two-party system and is the primary political issue today, just as it was more than 200 years ago. I doubt it will ever be settled to everyone’s satisfaction.
That’s okay. We are allowed, even encouraged to hold differing opinions. It keeps the dialogue going, it forces us to find solutions despite our differences. It encourages creative problem solving on a national level. Sometimes one position prevails, sometimes the other is ascendant. But trying to do an end-run around the constitution because you didn’t get what you wanted is very uncool. Push it too far, and it slides imperceptibly from controversy and debate to obstructionism and outright rebellion. The line is thin; it’s wise to tread gently.
George Washington faced the same issue and the result was a most unhappy President. He didn’t want the job. He strongly objected to having to do it twice. He hadn’t been thrilled to lead the Continental Army either, but his sense of duty trumped his personal desires. He was the very best kind of leader: reluctant. A leader who’d rather go home to his farm is someone you can trust. Washington hated politics and who could blame him?
In 1792, George Washington was prepared to retire as the first President of the United States. To that end, Washington, with James Madison, wrote a farewell address to the public of the United States of America. Faced with the unanimous objections of his Cabinet, however, Washington agreed to stand for another term. Finally, in 1796, Washington refused a third term. Dusting off his previous address, Washington and Alexander Hamilton rewrote the address.
It wasn’t really an address or speech. It was an open letter to the public that got published in nearly every American newspaper. Washington’s fellow Americans dubbed it “The Farewell Address,” as it if was our first President’s valedictory address, but it was actually a letter of resignation. George Washington was done with politics.
James Madison talked him into a second term. But when a third term was proposed, Washington dug his heels in and said the equivalent of “No man should be forced to serve more than 8 years. Stuff your Presidency. I’m going home.” If you carefully read his farewell letter to the nation, it’s a most elegant way of saying “Hell no, not me!”
Because we prefer to print the legend, this was interpreted to mean “No man should be allowed to serve as President for more than 8 years” whereas a more accurate reading is “no man should be forced to serve more than 8 years. Washington considered the Presidency akin to cruel and inhuman punishment and believed that no man should have to endure it more than 8 years and probably couldn’t imagine why anyone might want to.
That’s a pretty major disparity between legend and truth. But we prefer our history clean and tidy. We like our heroes heroic, swords shining, mounted on bright white horses. Presidents are not supposed to have feelings. They aren’t allowed to get tired or discouraged.
We can tear them to pieces in public debates and media criticism, circulate vicious, often unfounded attacks on their character, but Presidents unlike mortal men, aren’t allowed to get angry, fight back, or even get discouraged. They have to take it on the chin and keep smiling. Moreover, no matter how horribly we treat them, we expect them to keep doing their job and keep taking care of our business. If a President takes a vacation, millions of people act as if it is a heinous crime. He’s made of steel, right? No vacations required.
If you look at before-and-after pictures of Presidents, all of them appear to have aged 20 years during their 4 to 8 years in office. It’s a killer of a job for anyone, regardless of affiliation. The Presidency is a marathon performed on a tightrope over an open trench full of rattlesnakes while the entire world trains its cameras on every move he makes and onlookers throw rotten tomatoes.
Most sane people don’t want the job. Would you? I know I wouldn’t.
So now we have tens of thousands of so-called Americans in a snit because their guy lost. They show no respect for the country they claim to love and no concern for how much they are embarrassing the U.S. Without regard for whatever their issues are, however weirdly paranoid they are and whether or not they believe the Anti-Christ is in office in Washington D.C., they throw their rotten tomatoes and go out of their way to make a hard job as difficult as possible.
If I were President, I’d lock them all up. Together.
I’d keep them together, isolated from everybody but each other until they learn how to keep a civil tongue in their heads. If I had a child behaving like that, I’d lock the little creep in his or her room until the kid was ready to apologize and remember his or her manners. Pity we can’t do it on a national scale.
These people, humiliating reminders of how unevolved some of our neighbors are, deserve a country of their own. I suggest an uninhabited island that lacks all communications with the outside world. Let them enjoy self-rule without benefit of law. They would have exactly what they say they want: freedom from government interference. If they feel they need guns, I think they should have them. All they could do is kill each other.
Does anyone happen to have a large uninhabited island lying around unused? I think we have just the right population for it. Best remove the wildlife first, though. We wouldn’t want to foist these losers on poor unsuspecting animals. That would be too cruel.
Not one single state filed anything suggesting secession.
Why? First, because no state government was stupid enough to lose the benefits they get from the central government. Secession is illegal. The Civil War decided the issue and there’s no going back. All of those petitions were put together by groups of discontented sore losers who didn’t understand in the United States, an election decides the issue.
We don’t govern by petition. We protect your right to petition (thank you, First Amendment), but that only means we don’t throw you in jail for doing it, not that your petition has force of law. We don’t govern by opinion. We vote. No matter how often or how loudly you tell the world about your dissatisfaction on the Internet, on social media sites, or anything else, it’s the ballot box where we collect and count votes. We have a constitution. We have laws. We vote. We count votes. The winner is decided, the loser takes his marbles and goes home.
A petition by the losers of an election does not trump the right of the people of the United States to freely elect their representatives. That you have the right to petition doesn’t mean your petition is going to change anything. Its existence is a testament to how free a country this is. Most other places, you’d be jailed or shot.
The reason that not a single state government has petitioned for secession is because no one running a state is as stupid as these petitioners. They know they can’t go it on their own and aren’t going to try. Not to mention that a state trying to secede is considered to be in rebellion, for which there are serious penalties. As for the argument that we seceded from England, we were never part of England. We were a colony, a far different legal position than that held by a state. We did not secede from England. We rebelled against English rule. We are heroes because we won, but had we lost, it would have been ugly. Rebellion is a serious matter and the price of losing is dreadful. Rebels are hanged or shot, pretty much universally, so anyone who thinks they ought to rebel needs to be prepared to die.
AN HISTORICAL NOTE: The American colonists’ first choice was not to break away from England. We wanted the rights of full British citizenship and full representation in Parliament. In other words, far from preferring rebellion, we wanted inclusion. We wanted our status as a colony upgraded to the British equivalent of statehood … something that our American secessionist wannabes already have … and are too ignorant to value.
No one is going to secede. Not now, not in the forseeable future. Maybe after the alien invasion, things will change. Until then, secession is a non-issue.
As for all the mindless, blood-thirsty idiots who think a civil war is a good idea:
The Civil War cost more than 620,000 American lives, above and below the Mason-Dixon line. Death doesn’t care what color uniform you wear or what color skin you have. Dead is dead. The war between the states caused more American deaths than all other wars this nation has fought combined. ALL of them combined. I don’t know the actual percentage of the population that perished in that hideous conflict, the gory legacy of which we are still dealing with 150 years later, but it was a very substantial percentage. Anyone who suggests that doing that again is a good idea is a criminal.
I don’t care what you believe. No one who values human life, believes in God, or has any kind of conscience or moral compass would suggest we take up arms and start slaughtering each other.
If we are unable to live together, we will not survive as a nation. How can anyone claim to care about this country and then suggest we destroy it because they don’t like the President? Does this sound like patriotism?
There are too many people who have yet to grasp the concept that in a contest, there are always winners and losers. You, over there, with the sign and the sour face. You lost. Deal with it.
Respect the constitution. Work within our excellent system of laws. If you don’t respect our government enough to honor its fundamental principles, you really should go live somewhere else, if you can find anywhere else that will have your sorry asses.
Does it surprise anyone that the “leaders” of this bogus “movement” to secede are largely from the same states that produced the glorious Civil War? You think race might have something to do with it? The number of signatories, assuming that they could be verified as real people, does not come close to a majority of citizens of any state nor even enough to elect someone to congress. It’s just a bunch of malcontents trying to get media attention. In other words, losers.
- Some Comments on Secession by Seth Barrett Tillman (volokh.com)
- The Case Against The Confederacy (metafilter.com)
- Secession Chatter (tomliberman.wordpress.com)
- The Conch Republic (jonnathankelso.wordpress.com)
- John Fugelsang: Dear Texas – It’s OK, you can secede now (current.com)
- If your side lost the election, time to secede from the Union? (gloucestercitynews.net)