Term Limits Pro and Con
When America young, if we could have put any sign on the shores of the country for any foreign government to read, it might have said ìNo Kings Allowed!î The conviction was strong that this new country would never be a place where royalty dominated the people and were held up for worship as was the abuse in so many countries our forefathers came here to escape.
So many of the protections that were put in place in our founding documents were put there to assure that it would be virtually impossible for anyone to become king in this country. No matter how much power a politician or legislative body were able to amass, our system of government made sure that no one party, person or special interest group would be able to hold power forever and that no one could take over the government, stage a coup and change America into a tyrannical monarchy like we had left behind in Europe.
The separation of powers between the executive, the legislative and the judicial is one of the protections we have in place to make sure no single part of the government can arrest total power from the other two. And while this separation has lead to plenty of friction and battles between the branches of government, that is exactly the way it should be. Better to fight it out and have a government of shared power than to have one branch make all the decisions and rule like a king.
Just as important to the preservation of our unique governmental system is the use of term limits to restrict the extent to which a politician can ìtake up residenceî in a political office. We are most aware of term limits at the presidential level where we do not allow any one president to serve more than two terms. To some, that should be cut back to one term per president. But the term limit system will probably remain as it is for a long time to come.
This issue can generate a considerable amount of emotional debate. And of course, in a free society political debate is healthy too. How you feel about presidential term limits may have more to do with how much you do or donít like the current president. If you like him (or her) a great deal, you would probably cheer for the abolition of term limits entirely. And if you oppose the current occupant of the white house, just one term is probably too much. There are some compelling reasons on both side of the argument.
We do trade away a certain amount of experience when we require by law that our current leadership retire after eight years. Each time a new president settles in to the white house, there is a time of learning while that new leadership gets organized and learns how to do this unusual job. Some would argue that forcing leadership from office may be undemocratic because it denies the people the right to return a president to office if he (or she) is doing a good job and should continue in leadership.
One visible downside of term limits is that when a politician is in their last term, there is a time of ìlame duckî leadership because that leader no longer has to work hard to win another election. That leader could become reckless and not provide the quality of service to the country that we expect from our leadership.
But our founding fathers wisely believed in the concept of citizen leadership. Their original vision for the presidency would be that a citizen would go to Washington and serve in the office for a season and then quietly return to private practice to let another citizen lead for a while. While our approach to ex-presidents doesnít exactly fit that mold, our system is faithful to that vision.
Term limits keeps a constant flow of fresh leadership coming in. Some would say we should tighten term limits at the congressional and maybe even the judicial level. And there are merits to arguments on both sides of that issue. But we can say with assurance that term limits and the other provisions the founding founders put in place have kept our approach to government true to their vision of how this country would be run. And that means ìNo Kings Allowed!î