Feature

Term limits: A joke that won’t quit

When a politician comes out for term limits, you know it&rsquo;s just a ploy, to be rescinded at a later date, said Dick Polman in <em>The Philadelphia Inquirer.</em>

Dick PolmanThe Philadelphia Inquirer

Here we go again, said Dick Polman. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and two Republican colleagues just unveiled a bill to impose a three-term limit on House and Senate lawmakers. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it was only in the ’90s that GOP strategists were insisting that term limits were necessary to “take America back to the concept of ‘citizen legislators.’”

It was all very altruistic, of course, and had nothing to do with forcing veteran Democrats to retire, thus “creating open seats and hiking the odds of Republicans taking back the chamber.” Republicans even wrote term limits into their “Contract with America” in 1994. Seventy-three Republicans who had promised to limit their terms won election that year. Once in power, though, they had a revelation: The public needed them! By the next decade, 68 of the 73 had broken pledges to retire. Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, for example, had vowed to leave Congress by January 2001. Last I checked, he’s still there.

The reluctance to surrender power, of course, isn’t a Republican or a Democratic phenomenon. “It’s human nature.” So when a politician comes out for term limits, you know it’s just a ploy, to be rescinded at a later date.

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