To the editor:
There has been a spate of commentary lately, on this page and in other venues, regarding term limits for Congress. This is nothing new – the idea of term limits has been debated forever, usually driven by less-than-flattering opinions of representatives, as well as “sour grapes” over the election of the other party’s candidates.
In trying to explain why the Constitutional Convention of 1787 rejected term limits, James Madison, “father of the Constitution” – that document many believe should be interpreted as originally written – stated, “[A] few of the members of Congress will possess superior talents; will by frequent re-elections, become members of long standing; will be thoroughly masters of the public business, and perhaps not unwilling to avail themselves of those advantages. The greater the proportion of new members of Congress, and the less the information of the bulk of the members, the more apt they be to fall into the snares that may be laid before them.”
Madison was right: experience is valuable. The longer you do a job, the better you get at it.
Lawmakers who have earned the trust of the people and proven themselves to be honest and effective leaders should not have their service cut short by term limits.
New members of Congress face a steep learning curve. Term limits would reduce their chances of growing into the job – and, yes, it is a job – and becoming better at it.
Not to mention that the longer one spends in office, the more time one has to build trust and friendships across party lines, which is essential if progress is going to be made on controversial legislation.
More important, term limits would actually impact the right of the people to choose their elected representatives. While term limits might help eliminate corrupt and incompetent lawmakers, they would also get rid of the honest and effective ones, who are, partisan politics aside, the vast majority.
Many of us Americans truly like having our representatives and want them to serve as long as possible. A person’s having already served should not deny the voters the chance to return them to office.
At the end of the day, we already have term limits; they’re called elections.
Every two or six years, depending on the office, our elected officials in the House and in the Senate must face their constituents and get their approval.
Last time I checked, the system works. And it works ever better when we keep partisan politics out of the process.
Neil S. Lynch