Come on down!

In his column today, John Hood of the John Locke Foundation is calling for term limits, and I'm inclined to support the idea.

The first argument to dismiss, right off the bat, is the silly suggestion that term limits are a violation of popular sovereignty because they deprive voters of the representation of their choice. Popular sovereignty, democracy, republicanism – whatever your preferred term for the principle of representative government, it is difficult to argue that term limits are antithetical to it because the vast majority of voters, of every persuasion, support term limits. It is rational and consistent to vote for your incumbent within the current electoral structure and support term limits to ensure rotation in office, including your incumbent and all the rest.

But if We the People have the rights to adopt such a policy - and we do - then surely we should also be able to adopt a policy that eliminates all corporate money from elections and public policy. That is, we should be able to say as a collective that corporations do not enjoy the same inalienable rights as human beings, but rather, can be restricted in their financial influence. We should be able to change our laws so that no corporation may contribute to candidates or elected officials in any way. Nor may they contribute to organizations that contribute to candidates.

So Mr. Hood, I'll see your term limits and raise you the elimination of corporate contributions.

Deal?

Comments

I doubt Hood

will be interested. You see, term limits without restrictions on corporations gives Big Bidness a free hand to manipulate long-term public policy and buy and sell elections the way the Puppetmaster has been doing. Campaigns built solely on individual contributions can't compete with the avalanche of money that companies like Variety Stores can pour into individual races.

Cake and eating it.

Great point. How about we go further and limit individual expenditures. No corporate expenditures, individual donations capped at $500 per candidate and $1000 per issue group and $10,000 per year for all political donations.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Term limits do nothing

...but entrench the lobbyists as the holders of institutional memory. It makes them even more powerful. We have term limits. They are called elections, and if you make them publicly funded and you stop gerrymandering districts through equal-opportunity incumbent backscratching, we might see some actual democracy and challengers who can win.

"85% of Republicans are Democrats who don't know what's going on." -Robert Kennedy, Jr.

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

Those are two mighty big IF's

and given the state of things these days, I'm not sure institutional memory is all it's cracked up to be.

But I agree with the concern about lobbyists. That's why corporate and lobbyist contributions should be eliminated. That way, at least, the lobbying playing field would be leveled.

One more thing

that would help is an independent commision to draw the lines at redistricting time. This way, the incumbents don't get to draw the lines to protect their own seats. The current process apparently leaves half the seats gerrymandered in such a way that they are not competitive. An incumbent in a non-competitive seat is harder to hold accountable.

Upping the ante

So Mr. Hood, I'll see your term limits and raise you the elimination of corporate contributions.

So, no 529s? Do you want to be the one that killed MoveOn.org?

As for lobbyists - everyone has a special interest looking out for some aspect of their life (professional organizations, political action organizataions, even religious organizations) that have some lobbying mechanism. It's bizarre; but they are more creatures of the first Amendment than "evil corporations"

Term limits are a good idea - coupled with the redistricting ideas from previous commenters.

I know you are not saying...

that move on is funded only through corporate donations.

That would be a blatant falsehood.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

But...

...can you say that no corporate money has found its way into MoveOn?

Also, would you make illegal all of the ways that George Soros pumps money into elections?

"527" not "529"

Sorry, having a newborn son has made me think of another part of the tax code...I meant "527" when I wrote "529"

They're still anti-democratic

And besides, if the NC Constitution includes term limits for the Governor, that means the folks who wrote the constitution were perfectly capable of drafting a term limits provision. The fact that they didn't do so for legislators is pretty clear evidence that they didn't believe that there should be one.

we all know why...

four terms of a populist Democrat with no end in sight. Personally, I would love the Constitution to demand a pause, like with Governor. Could you imagine a Clinton v. Bush 2004 race?

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

So you buy the argument that 'framers'

are the voices of wisdom for all time?

Why then would the Constitution be amended, as it was 1971?

*Since the Constitution of 1971, there have been over twenty amendments. The majority of these amendments extends the rights of citizens and extends the government the ability to issue bond. The following are significant amendments made since the 1971 constitution:

Allowing the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to serve two consecutive terms (previously office holders were limited to one term).

That 1971 constitution also gave the Governor veto power, which s/he didn't originally have.

Who's right? The framers or we the people?

You brought up the Constitution!

It's not the framers, but the law. But as we interpret the law, the intent of the drafters should be of primary concern. That not the same thing as "the framers are the voices of wisdom for all time." If we're trading in absolutes, do you buy the argument that the intent of the drafters should be disregarded in interpreting the law?

That's a tangent, anyway. Here's my point: democracy is people electing their representatives. I understand that we don't live in a pure democracy, but I can't understand why we should try to offset one anti-democratic force with another. Doing so would be like punching a guy in the nose so he'd forget about his stomach ache.

Maybe then we can have term limits

on Speaker of the House?

I see your points and I'm trying to reconcile them with the arrogance of power that often comes with the longevity of tenure. That power is inherently attractive to the people of the district that elect the person, but not so attractive to everyone on all the other districts who don't have the benefit of long-tenured representatives.

This is one time I'm glad I'm not a lawyer

because I can be naive and common sensical. For example, the arguments about intent of framers give me a he-said she-said headache everytime I hear them. They got some things right, they blew some things badly. What we KNOW is what they wrote. And if what they wrote doesn't serve the common good any longer, then we should write something else.

But as we interpret the law, the intent of the drafters should be of primary concern.

I'd make it a secondary concern at best.

Power of incumbency

Even in small local elections, incumbency is a powerful force.

Term limits counter this power - level the playing field and, as Hood points out, increases the flow of talent into elective positions. A strong party infrastructure could counter the institutionalized power of lobbyists. Unfortunately, both parties are addicted to goodies from the lobbyists trough - moreso than some of their constituent members.

There was an interesting discussion of term limits over on OrangePolitics: Who Wants to Be Mayor For Life? when Chapel Hill proactively asked our State legislation to remove the Mayor's term-limits. Would've been interesting to wait until a clarifying court case before our attorney (supposedly on his own initiative), speculating on the un-Constitutional nature of mayoral term limits, suggested the Council ask for their removal.