By Patrick F. Cannon
My regular readers will know of my support for term limits. I’ve signed petitions to get the question on the ballot in Illinois. I’ve even donated money to the cause.
Now, I find that I don’t have to make the argument yet again, as our legislators at all levels are doing just fine on their own. Their multi-term “experience” has led to the most serious crisis our country currently faces. The threat of bogeyman President Trump pales in comparison. The State of Illinois is bankrupt by any true definition of the word, thanks to “Speaker for Life” Madigan and his minions in both houses. At the Federal level, the same old faces fail to solve the same old problems.
For Democrats with selective memories, let me remind them that the current health care mess started when the then Democrat Congress forced through a bill of more than 2,000 pages – which most of their own members did not bother to read – without a single Republican vote. It came to be called Obamacare, and it’s deeply flawed to say the least. Now, in a spirit of “tit for tat,” the Republicans are trying to get even, with no success thus far.
Thus, the current crisis, which will persist so long as the best interests of the public come a poor third to the need to be reelected, and the pandering to special interests, whether they be corporate or unions and other “progressive” interests. The needs of the country will not be met by ideologues, but by pragmatists.
Universal health care is only one example of a problem that is eminently solvable. You start with the premise that everyone is entitled to adequate health care. With no reference to ideology, you ask and then answer this question: what is the cheapest and most efficient way to deliver it? We actually have people who have studied this and would be ready – indeed anxious – to advise our legislators. The same pragmatic approach could be taken to tax reform, another dream of long standing that will not survive the extreme wings of both parties.
Although there are other possibilities, I would limit members of the lower houses of both state and Federal legislatures to eight years in office. Senators could serve two terms only. Members of the lower houses could run for the senate after their eight years were up. Thus, it would be possible for a particularly popular politician to serve for 24 years at the Federal level.
In the interests of bipartisanship, let me note that Democrat Michael Madigan has been in the Illinois House for 46 years; and Republican Mitch McConnell has represented Kentucky in the US Senate for 33. They are arguably two of the most hated men by members of their opposing parties. And while McConnell has been in close races over the years, no one believes Madigan would ever lose in his gerrymandered district.
I have heard the argument that it takes many years of experience for a legislator to become effective, and term limits would snatch them from us just at the wrong time. Nonsense. Although I’m a bit too old to run, I would feel perfectly qualified to serve, and I know many people who would be more highly qualified than many who now adorn our legislatures. Really, if you can’t learn enough in four years in office to assume a leadership role, you may have chosen the wrong profession. I think we’re in the mess we’re in because our politicians have been around too long and worry more about being reelected than serving their constituents.
There are some glimmers of hope. 15 states have term limits of some kind, and citizens in others, including Illinois, are trying or have tried to establish them. And it has to be the citizens because politicians are unlikely to do it on their own. In Illinois, ballot initiatives have a hard row to hoe. For example, in a purely partisan vote, the Democrat majority state Supreme Court prevented a redistricting amendment from being placed on the ballot last year.
Finally, a national poll last year found that 74 percent of Americans favored term limits for Congress. Only 13 percent were opposed (the rest had no opinion). It takes abundant chutzpah for our elected representatives to resist the public will, but it’s a quality they have in spades.
Copyright 2107, Patrick F. Cannon