TERM LIMITS: A REALLY TERRIBLE IDEA – Marilyn Armstrong

I keep reading the same crap. Why is this so hard to understand?

So you believe term-limits will solve our political problems. Why would you think that? Are “old timers” in Congress the big problem — as opposed to the bloated egos and narrow minds of the Tea Party, Trumpocrats, and racists? All of whom were recently elected and have no understanding of how the government works? And worse, who care nothing for the American people?

Look how much they’ve fixed everything. Yeah, that’s going well.

Exactly what problem do you think you solve by making terms shorter? Will it attract a better quality of candidates for office? Will it convince people to vote for better candidates?

Doesn’t the past presidential election prove that people will vote for a bad candidate even when all logic and reason should tell them he has no interest in serving their interests?

So you believe we will get better government if no one in congress gets to hang around awhile? Why would inexperience produce a better government?  Aren’t we already suffering from a monumental amount of inexperience and incompetence?

Would you choose an inexperienced surgeon? A barber who has never cut hair or gone to barber school? In what other area do we prefer untrained, raw recruits to veterans?

Oh, right. The presidency. How’s that working for you?

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) proved to them the best people are not interested in temporary government jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. Many of the people originally elected under the Articles of Confederation 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. How many times do we need to relearn the same lesson?

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 or support their families.

Term limits were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They were right. The Constitution aims to get professionals into government.


Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government.
It becomes a rough temp job without a 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, not so much.

What you cry? How can that be?

Most members of Congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file congressional members 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 their 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. They would be less susceptible to bribery.

On the whole, they were right. What they didn’t foresee was how greed would become the foundation of our national government and that’s another issue. Or how many kinds of corruption would be easily 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 the old guard, folks who understood how to work with the opposition. Knew how to make the process work. It’s the recently elected morons who are stopping progress.

Sadly, our experienced old-timers got old, retired, or died. They have been replaced by imbeciles.


Above and beyond the skill it takes to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and 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 DoleTed Kennedy et al.

Anyone you name connected to the passage of major legislation was a multi-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. If any of them figure out where the toilets are and actually get good at their jobs (I know, hard to imagine at the moment), they’ll be gone.

Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

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. You only have to watch the news once or twice to see how our wonderful, government is doing.

If that doesn’t argue against the treasured (but stupid) belief that what Washington DC needs are outsiders, I don’t know what will convince you. Assuming we survive 45s reign, we will desperately need intelligent, knowledgeable people to set America back on course.


We don’t need term limits.
We need better candidates, better representatives.


We need men and women willing to learn the craft, who have ideas and can work with each other and other nations to get America’s business done. Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on Congress.

The president doesn’t run the country

He’s not our “CEO.” Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people who make the laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault

The 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.

You want term limits? Vote the morons out of office

We didn’t vote ALL the morons out of office, but we did pretty well and considering there are still a few senatorial elections being recounted, we may do even better. Moreover, we had the highest voter turnout ever. That’s amazing, wonderful, and gives me hope.

Vote for people who believe the good of the country is more important than their personal agenda. Vote for intelligent people who understand about compromise, who have a grip on law, justice, and the constitution.

That will produce real change that might last!

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

28 thoughts on “TERM LIMITS: A REALLY TERRIBLE IDEA – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. Several examples of elections acting as term limits have occurred in the 2018 mid-terms, A couple of prime examples here — Darryl Issa, who has been a representative for only a couple of terms, has been voted out of office. Additionally, Dana Rohrabacher, a 5-term representative, was voted out — for a while he was good, and gained experience, then he began to use his position for his own aggrandizement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And that’s how elections are SUPPOSED to work. The problem is that people don’t vote and then they complain bitterly about who’s in office. If you don’t vote, you aren’t allowed to complain, or anyway, that’s how I feel about it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Always a hot button topic with term limit advocates usually folks not familiar with the system or players. They equate corruption and indifference with people who’ve been around for awhile.

        They should get an up close view of the Senate and House during a working day. You’ll need extra eyes and ears to absorb all the stuff going on, including bi-partisan swaps and deals. The antagonism you see on TV disappears when the cameras and lights are off. On-camera enemies are wheeler dealers off camera. I had the good fortune of seeing legends like Tip O’Neill, Ev Dirksen, Ted Kennedy and, even good ol’ boys like Strom Thurmond, cutting deals that made sense. Such negotiations rarely made headlines. The multi-term legislators snickered at new comers promising to change the world in their first term. It’s quite an education.

        Pause a moment here. What we need is an infusion of new blood (which we just got in the midterms). The rookie legislators, like in baseball, need to observe the veterans to sharpen their game.

        Deuces Wild!

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      2. Sunday, 11/18 — All 4 representatives from Orange County have been replaced in the mid-terms by Dems — this is one of the bastions of conservatism,, so this has been a major feat! It took a while, but was accomplished without recounts or other conflict! And we ousted a couple of long-term guys!

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  2. You make a good argument against term limits for elected officials, but how about term limits for federal judges, especially Supreme Court Justices? How about 24 years, or the equivalent of six presidential terms? 24 years on the bench is plenty of time.

    Also, how about a mandatory retirement age for elected officials? Say 70. Candidates would not be allowed to run for an office if they would turn 70 prior to the end of their term. Do we really want a bunch of old people running things? (And I’m saying this as someone who is over 70!)

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  3. I can feel that passion. 😉

    Why is it then that all your reasonable arguments against term limits do not apply to the Head Honcho? If a guy’s doing a fair job (i struggle with using the adjective ‘good’ these days as often what is good for some is bad for others) why can’t you vote for him 3 times? Or 4, or 5 even??

    We don’t get to elect our Leader – that’s the job of the party. Unfortunately, it means we don’t have a leader – we have leading ‘factions’ who run the country ‘behind closed doors’, largely anonymously – to the public at least: I’m certain lobbyists know exactly where the true power lies though.

    Our leader is there as a figurehead the power brokers and numbers men can blame, and ditch, whenever necessary, as has happened 4 times in the last 2 governments so far this decade. Such shenanigans and deceit of the public’s misplaced belief in what is supposed to happen when they vote is now starting to bite them. By May we will have a new party in government and our 8th leader in 12 years. 😦

    Politics these days seems to be so much more about ‘marketing’ than actually producing, and the cynic in me detects that now, even more than ever, Money determines the eventual outcomes. There may be the odd public outrage initiated policy ‘victory’ but on the whole it is those with the largest stake in the ‘Game’ who have the most say in the direction the Government tries to take the country. There is a LOT more than the Amount of the National Debt (how much is it now? $20 trillion yet?) in the ‘pot’ and it seems the big stakeholders are quite greedy and not particularly scrupulous when it comes to putting ‘America’, but more particularly all Americans, first.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree with most of what you say, Marilyn. We need a better class of politician. Obviously, they don’t go into it for the money. They can make a lot more in their own professions but there are the perks and some do take advantage of the travel allowances and other things. I imagine it is the same in the USA as here and in Britain. To be a useful member of Parliament a member needs to be there long enough to learn the ropes so changing every couple of years isn’t ideal. My only argument would be that as most MP’s live in a bubble I want them to have had some experience of working in the real world first. Quite a few candidates these days have only worked in government positions prior to running for office. They know how the factions work but they may not know a lot about the people they are going to represent.
      However, if an MP is doing a good job it seems ridiculous to boot them out because of term limits.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. They are all corrupt. I think it comes with the territory. In a parliamentary system, you get the head of the winning faction. And we get a moron. If there’s a better way, we haven’t found it. I suspect the problem is not the system, but us. We are the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Take it easy, here in Spain there are not term limits and thanks to a political party the country is going down the toilet. Relax, you´ll get antother socialist in place if people in america vote that way Do some yoga.

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      1. Money is one problem and the length of time we spend running elections is another. Put elections on a schedule and limit TV and other advertising media.

        A really stupid, uninformed, ignorant electorate is the BIG problem. If we wanted a better government, why do fewer than half of all eligible voters not bother? Democracy is participatory and, to put it most simply, you get what you pay for.

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      2. I don’t really have an answer… except term limits might make them do real work instead of thinking about a congressional vote that would determine whether they get re-elected!

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  5. What Canadians tend to do is leave the same people in office far too long until we get so fed up with them we throw the “bums” out at election time.
    Leslie

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