Wednesday, October 19, 2016
I'm Against Term Limits (And Anything Else Trump Says At This Late Date)
Donald Trump has finally decided to announce a pair of policy positions. Ooh, how presidential!
First, he has issued an "Ethics Reform" statement. Puh-leeeze! The thought of Donald Trump lecturing the nation on ethics should result in either of two reflex reactions on your part -- convulsive laughter, or throwing up in your mouth a little bit.
As a general rule, term limits are a bad idea.
Fans of term limits talk about bringing in fresh faces and new ideas, fighting corruption in politics, and reducing the influence of money and lobbyists.
Politicians, both incumbents and wanna-be's, are engaged in public service. Some politicians are better public servants than others, and many are individually well-off to begin with (campaigns take money), but nobody runs for city council or Congress or the White House just for the salary.
If you're a fresh face and if your new-trick ideas are really that much better than your old-dog opponent, then you have a fair and square chance of being elected. Will you need connections, a good campaign staff, and sufficient funding? Of course you will. This is politics, Pollyanna.
Corruption can and does occur in politics, and in business, and in virtually every field of endeavor, but it is certainly not a given in any of them. Does mere length of political service really increase the chance of corruption in an individual? I don't think so. There are many Reps and Senators who've accomplished things and served for decades without a whiff of stink. Don't underestimate the value of experience and institutional knowledge. That's why a lot of the old dogs get re-elected.
The real problem with term limits is that the concept does nothing to reduce the influence of money and lobbyists. In fact, term limits would increase that influence. Term limits create an unwise revolving door -- current good politicians, old pros who know a thing or two, would be arbitrarily forced out. And their replacements would not be legally allowed to stick around for very long.
What would stick around? All the money, all the lobbyists, all the K Street crowd. They wouldn't go anywhere, and they'd be only to happy to "educate" the endless stream of rookies promoted the big leagues.
As the great Charlie Pierce puts it, "The lobbyists would be the only ones left who know where the bathrooms are."
I will say that I'm in favor of selective term limits, especially if I get to do the selecting. Off the top of my head, I'd term-limit Robbie Portman, Pat Tiberi, and Mitch McConnell for starters.