Chris Rainwater: Term limits could help end insanity in D.C.
As an American patriot, an avid historian, a veteran and a citizen who is just good ole’ fashioned fed up with the federal government, I want to encourage my fellow citizens to push for a Constitutional Amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress.
The time has come for the citizens to impose sanity back into the halls of Congress by eliminating the ability for an elected member of the Senate or the House of Representatives to serve well past their usefulness.
The daily discourse in our Congress is poisonous. Ideology is no longer defined by well-reasoned principles and intelligent argument but instead by whether one watches CNN rather than Fox News.
Policy is no longer a matter of compromise but instead is based upon blind allegiance to party and entrenched party leaders (on both sides). No issue is beyond the pale as Democrats cannot find a single positive word to describe the recent release of the prisoners from North Korea (lest they give the President credit) while the Republicans seem hell-bent on describing any liberal point of view as “fake news.”
And what drives the insatiable appetite to refuse compromise, ignore intelligent discussion and work across the aisle is the ever-present need to look ahead to one’s own re-election.
Congressional elections, both in the Senate and the House, have become ridiculously … scratch that … obscenely expensive. An average campaign for the House of Representatives in 2012 cost $1.6 million, and a campaign for Senate cost $10.3 million.
Pause and read those figures again, folks. How many of you will earn either $1.6 million of $10.3 million in your entire life? And yet, that’s what it cost to be elected to Congress …positions that pay less than $200,000 annually.
So, if you want to get elected and re-elected to Congress, you have to constantly raise money from outside sources, swear allegiances that you don’t really mean, take positions that don’t represent your constituents, and climb into the pockets of anyone and everyone who will give you money (so long as you vote exactly as they tell you).
The need to constantly focus on fundraising in order to win re-election instead of lawmaking has nearly destroyed our political system. Instead of being elected, getting the job done and then returning to society as private citizens, our Congressmen (and women) serve term after term in the pockets of special interests and divorce themselves from the realities within our communities.
We, as the American electorate, need to insist upon term limits for members of Congress that will force them to focus on the job at hand, do the very best for our nation while they serve and then go home.
Some will argue that democracy itself negates the need for term limits. After all, they argue, we go to the polls every two years and have the ability to throw poorly-performing politicians out of office. Why then do we need term limits?
But the sad truth is that most Americans don’t throw out politicians. In fact, election after election we fall for the temporary campaign slogans and re-elect the same people time after time.
If Americans were so wise, so informed, and so astute, why do we keep getting it wrong? Why do we continuously “get the government we deserve,” as Thomas Jefferson noted?
If history has taught us anything, it is that the American electorate doesn’t spend time researching the issues, doesn’t look at candidates from other parties (and God forbid consider a third-party candidate) and on election day often does not even bother to vote at all.
So, with all due respect to my fellow electorate, we continue to get it wrong. Term limits for Congress are an important first step to ending the insanity in Washington, D.C., as well as the extraordinary vanity of those who now seem destined to be (not serve) there forever.
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