Why It’s Time For Congressional Term Limits
Our founding fathers saw the wisdom in creating a new type of government. One “Of the People, by the People, for the People”. I, along with 82% of American’s* feel that term limits have become a necessary vehicle to quay the apparent unending cronyism and corruption in Washington. (*according to McLaughlin & Associates survey). They saw the wisdom in the citizen sacrificing time away from his or her job, business, family, every day life in the quest of governing. Doing their part to contribute to society and then return to their former lifestyle. Our government was never intended to be a resting place for career politicians to develop the elitist mentality and means of governance it has become.
It’s completely mind boggling to me that our House and Senate continue, year after year, to have the lowest approval rating when the American citizen is polled. They regularly fail to exceed an approval rating of 25% or more. In fact, polls indicate that since March 13th, 2010, Congressional approval has not risen above 25% once and rarely hit 20%.So, I must ask myself, Why? Why do these people, so called Congressional leaders, continue to get reelected election after election despite their seemingly endless scandals, many of which have ended in indictments?
A quick search indicates that 60 of the current representatives in the House have been in office since 1999 or earlier. For those keeping count, 15 republicans and 45 democrats.
Nearly 14% of our elected officials have been in office for as long as a soldier must serve to get a 40% pension, and I would doubt anyone can argue who is sacrificing more. The Senate is slightly worse with 15 out of 100 senators (or 15%) for the same amount of time; 7 democrats, 8 republicans. There are several senators and representatives that have been in office well over 30 years.
When I look at this and start to review how we, as a modern nation, with so many avenues to capture data and understand what our elected officials are or aren’t doing to represent us, I can only assume the incumbent would have an insurmountable advantage when elections are held.
A quick internet search leads me to Open Secrets.org. Based on the data they have compiled, in the last 10 elections (20 years), the House of Representatives has never had a reelection win percentage drop below 80% and the Senate has only dropped below 80% twice. If you average the statistics between both the House and the Senate over those same 20 years, you get an average reelection result of nearly 90%!
I must ask, what are the real advantages to incumbents that the challenger doesn’t have? Why do these things matter? Below is a breakdown of just a few of the very significant advantages the incumbent has under our current, broken system.
For starters, name recognition. Incumbents have been through the election cycle, in the news, campaigning, visiting their constituents, glad handing, kissing babies, etc. Many people know who they are; if not by sight, at least by name. They many not agree with their policies but there is a familiarity there. People will often vote for no change without a present, overwhelming need felt by the individual to affect change. And without that catalyst, the incumbent has a big advantage with name recognition.
Ground game. Incumbents are staffed. They have councilmen and councilwomen that “owe them”. That want to see things remain unchanged and will do everything in their power to ensure that the status quo remains. The proverbial “quid pro quo” is incessant in our current political landscape and anything that would or could interfere with that is quickly dealt with by the “boots on the ground” of the incumbent. Grass roots programs to get out the vote, bussing voters to the polling stations and many other things help insure an unfair advantage, especially early in the campaign, to the incumbent.
A Primary election not required for incumbents in many states. As I understand it, because elections are conducted at the state level and the electoral college votes for the President, the state makes its own voting laws. While all other officials are either appointed or voted for by popular vote, only the President is not voted for directly, but rather the votes tell the electoral college representative who they should vote for to elect the president. Because we are a republic, this is a key differentiator in how we elect our leader. But I regress; so, getting back to the State Primary. Many states do not require the incumbent to participate in a primary election, so, they have no way to get taken off the ballad prior to an election. This is a major disadvantage to the challenger, as the primary is a great place for “Joe the Plumber” to get a first hand look at the incumbent and challenger discussing similar issues, in similar settings.
Lobbyists. Because the quid pro quo is so entrenched in today’s politics, the lobbyist also does not want things to change.
They will nearly always feed the incumbent. A vote in favor of bills that help the lobbyist will generally result in campaign fund contributions, or in other instances, favorable treatment by the lobbyist in the way of preferential treatment to contractors and corporations that contribute to the incumbent. Lobbyists live by the old saying “what comes around goes around” and they make sure they don’t bite the hand that feeds them.
This leads to probably the most important advantage of all. CASH. In today’s politics, having a huge “war chest” nearly guarantees the incumbent victory over the challenger. The ability to do robo calls (which I hate), mass mailings and emailing, run campaign adds, hire campaign staff, travel, etc. In modern politics, cash is king, and many politicians literally hold their offices by buying them. Since the incumbents can use their position in office to generate campaign cash and get contributions from a multitude of sources, it’s nearly impossible for a challenger to raise enough cash to compete in a meaningful way.
As you can see, after just a little research, it becomes glaringly obvious that our political highway is littered with roadblocks that, despite failure to perform, make it nearly impossible for a challenger to win an election in this country and the data supports this as fact. Regardless of what our leaders in the house and senate want you to believe, elections are not “built in term limits”. If that were the case, then why did congress pass the 22nd amendment limiting the President to two terms? Why do they limit the president, but they don’t have limitations on their offices? If we are to continue to get new thoughts and ideas to bring about new laws that benefit the citizens of this Republic, it’s crucially important that we get this addressed and a constitutional amendment be passed and ratified.
Ted Cruz has introduced a bill in the Senate to limit the senators to two 6 year terms and the representative to three 2 year terms. I would encourage you to contact your senator and encourage him / her to support this legislation. It’s time to end the corruption in Washington and make this a government “Of the People” once again.