• 07/23/2024

    Term Limits Or Rotation Of Office?

    August 14, 2023
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    Term Limits

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    There has been an awakening in the nation that we are suffering from a ruling class that is divorced from American society. Incumbency is what enables the problem, and the solution on everyone’s tongue is “term limits.” Just as the President is limited to two terms, limit the number of years that a representative can be in Congress. Extending term limits to Supreme Court justices has also been mentioned.

    Many states have term limits on office holders, potentially at all levels. Each state has different restrictions.

    Limiting a politician’s terms bounds the damage one can do in that office. It does nothing to discourage a professional class. Professional politicians will just move to a different office, perhaps at a different level within government. In fact, term limits may even encourage a larger political class by creating openings for more of them.

    Even with term limits, career politicians are prevalent. Within Colorado, one state Attorney General became the mayor of Colorado Springs. The Secretary of State who inflicted Dominion Voting Systems on Colorado is a sitting Colorado Springs city councilman who also ran for Colorado Springs mayor. His wife is a county commissioner. These are just a couple of examples that don’t even include their complete “careers.”

    Many Americans understand that the founders never intended there to be a professional political class. They know that the nation was supposed to be ruled by the citizens, but they are not well informed of some crucial details about how it was accomplished in the colonial period, and how it was lost in the Philadelphia Convention.

    Resolution 4 of the original Virginia Plan was the basis for the “lower house.” It shines a light on the colonial solution to prevent a political class.

    4. Resd. that the members of the first branch of the national Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States every for the term of __  ; to be of the age of __  years at least, to receive liberal stipends by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service; to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those beculiarly [sic] belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and for the space of __  after its expiration; to be incapable of re-election for the space of __  after the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall. (emphasis added)

    The highlighted phrase establishes what is known as “rotation of office.” This was common during the colonial period. The British government set periods of seven years for office holding. It wasn’t unusual for the colonists to divide this period into three years in office, followed by four years of ineligibility for any office.

    Also notice that Resolution 4 gives the states the power to recall a representative. This is a very important power for federalism. One of the biggest problems with our current system is that congressional loyalties are to DC, not to the home states that elected them. This would totally change that.

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    The most important difference between term limits and rotation of office is that rotation forces politicians into the private sector. They cannot hold any office for the “incapable” term. They are forced to live with the results of the laws they made. Whereas politicians do not learn a lesson from term limits, they do from rotation.

    So, what happened to these important mechanisms in the Constitutional Convention? Here is Madison’s note from 12 Jun 1787:

    On question moved by Mr. PINCKNEY for striking out “incapable of re- election into 1st. branch of Natl. Legisl. for years, and subject to recall” agd. to nem. con.[1]

    “agd. Nem. con.” stands for “agreed nemine contradicente.” That is, early in the third week of the Convention, it was agreed to remove both rotation of office and a state’s ability to recall a recalcitrant representative—unanimously and without any discussion.

    At the time of the Convention, there was a growing belief that rotation of office was preventing the people from electing the best representatives. The other side of that coin is that it was also preventing the worst from getting elected repeatedly.

    Our problem today is the latter—we keep electing the same idiots. At least we could get different idiots once in a while…

    The framers were not perfect, and they really blew it on the issues of rotation of office and recall. In addition to removing them on 12 Jun 1787, they never considered them for the upper house.

    Then, there’s the issue of unelected bureaucrats…

    [1] Avalon Project – Madison Debates – June 12. Accessed April 8, 2022. https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_612.asp.

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