Term limits are an over-hyped solution to political problems in America.
If you had a choice of getting brain surgery from a surgeon with 20 years of experience versus one with a couple of weeks, which would you choose? An absurd comparison? It is actually quite applicable to politics.
Bringing people together to find common ground and draft legislation that satisfies a majority while still solving real problems requires a unique skill set. With term limits, there is a constant turnover of people, loss of “institutional memory,” learning on the job, inability to draft a coherent sentence or paragraph, let alone write a piece of legislation not filled with unintended consequences or loopholes.
Pay-to-play “bill mills” like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), funded by Koch brothers and other corporate interests, happily fill the void and provide the “institutional memory.” In fact, they prefer a naïve, inexperienced politician who they can “train” which is probably why ALEC is pushing term limits. We seem to think if a person is a successful sports coach, business owner or an accomplished professional, then he/she will know how to resolve energy issues or work collaboratively with people of different political persuasions.
We have a term limit mechanism in place: voting. So why is it that entrenched, non-responsive legislators do not get voted out?
Three reasons: 1) gerrymandered districts, tribal allegiance of voters to a political party “identity,” and “dark” money.
Implementing term limits will do nothing to alter any of these three factors. Statistically in legislative contests, the candidate with the most money will win the election.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 opened the floodgates for the flow of unlimited secret money. In 2012 and 2014, Kansas became a Koch-owned state. Legislation was passed that benefitted the Koch fortunes while stripping Kansas of public resources. Fortunately enough, Koch puppets were replaced in 2016 to begin reversing the damage. As long as there is unlimited, non-transparent money sloshing around in the political pool, no politician is likely to owe his/her full allegiance to the voters.
The solution is not term limits but the following measures might bring some:
• Wide-open multi-party primaries followed by taking the top two vote getters to the general election;
• Elimination of unlimited, undisclosed dark money sanctioned by Citizens United;
• Time limits on campaign season along with public funding; and
• Elimination of gerrymandered districting.
If one is swimming in shark-infested waters, restricting the experience of the lifeguards is counterintuitive. Rather, eradicating the sharks is the surest way to reduce or eliminate carnage.
— Roxanne Mettenburg, Princeton