In the Loop

Could term limits be the answer to political stagnation?

Posted at 12:25 PM on January 25, 2010 by Sanden Totten (4 Comments)

The past year in politics has been an exercise in futility. Both Republicans and Democrats have fought long and hard on the health care debate and so far we've got . . . well, still nothing.

A listener went over to our Skribit and proposed this question as a potential solution:

Why not have term limits for every political post in the country?
Only one term.

Sanden Totten decided to look into the state of term limits in the U.S. to see why that may or may not be a good idea. (This interview was part of our latest In The Loop podcast)

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Comments (4)

The founders wanted an educated vote cast, my how we have slipped below our basic responsibilites as a citizen. Term limits would be better than career politicians.

Posted by Tom | January 25, 2010 6:25 PM

Term limits could reduce the influence of outside interests counter to those of the electorate. However, with the party polarization being demonstrated in our current Congress and legislatures, it seems the opposition just sits on their hands and waits out the majority party. I've lived in countries where each election the incumbent party is overturned and the new opposition just refuses to participate until the next election, continuing without end and without any change or progress. Seems not only the voters but the elected in our own country lack courage these days.

Posted by Sieglinde Gassman | January 26, 2010 11:15 AM

Term limits are not what's wrong with democracy in the US. What's wrong with democracy is a lack of critical thinking and short memory among the electorate, fueled by agenda- and profit-driven 24-hour cable news stations. There is little real fact checking in media outlets these days (present company excepted, of course), and using the presentation of two sides as "balanced"--when they are, logically and facutally, anything but--is absurd, but seldom questioned.
Term limits are a simple but wrong answer; I'm not even sure what problem it would address. Money's undue influence? How would term limits help that, when the Supreme Court just decided that a corporation is an individual, and money is speech? I suppose it would help in the House, where Representatives now have to start campaigning for their next term as soon as their current one starts; however, it would mean that the entire House would have to get reorganized every two years--there would be no continuity in committee membership or leadership.
We have term limits now...each elected official is limited to the number of terms for which they can get elected.

Posted by Rip Stauffer | January 26, 2010 1:09 PM

Great discussion here. Thanks. My main thought when constructing this story was that term limits might allow politicians to take bigger risks and actually pass tough legislation. If they were not constantly worried about being re-elected they may make some good but tough decisions. For instance, with health-care reform you could imagine that some Republicans would be willing to side with Democrats if they weren't worried about a small but influential section of their base booting them from office come the next election. Likewise, if Dems weren't worried they will lose their seats like what happened in Mass. they may be more aggressive in pushing for the change that the people who elected them were asking for. But I think a lot of the points you all brought up would still hold true, so certainly term limits would not be a political cure-all.

Posted by Sanden Totten | January 27, 2010 10:36 AM

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