Term limits would avoid lifetime appointments
The procession has begun.
Candidates for state House and Senate seats as well U.S. House are circulating petitions for the right to seek party nominations for election to those offices.
In most cases, the elected offices that you will be casting ballots over April 28 are for two-year terms. But what if I told you these are de facto lifetime appointments in many cases?
Crazy, right? Well, no.
There are no term limits for state or U.S. House and Senate seats. So that two-year term that is up for grabs this year can easily become 20 — or 40 — years.
If you don’t think so, check out the officials at the microphones at the next news conference you watch in Harrisburg or Washington. Most of the speakers were at those microphones a decade or so ago. And if you look up the video of them speaking about the most logical way to conduct an impeachment hearing or solve immigration, you will find them saying the polar opposite of what they said then to fit the agenda and politics of 2020.
The formula is simple. Both major political parties push candidates that match their platform and fit the leanings of the majority in the districts or states they will serve. They fuel their campaigns with money from political contributions that total in the millions.
Once elected, that support remains as long as they check legislative boxes the party has in mind. The campaign money and media accessibility is a huge advantage for incumbents. Challengers within the parties have a tough time posing a legitimate threat in Primary Elections because of those two disadvantages.
And challengers from either party are fighting an uphill battle in General Elections because the parties have matched their incumbents to fit the majority ideology of a given district or state.
The result is a lot of folks older than me representing you in Harrisburg and Washington. Experience is a good thing. I know personally the value of it. I also know there is a tipping point when experience loses and the negative insulation of too-long-on-the job wins.
Look at the issues the elected leaders in Harrisburg and Washington have not solved – runaway spending and debt, immigration, homelessness, state pensions, outdated infrastructure, underfunded Social Security and Medicare to name a few. Most of them could be solved with compromise. But the two parties are consumed with preventing political wins for the other. They can afford that with re-election for representatives and senators nearly assured. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
I have met many representatives and senators over the years. They are not bad people. They are not without personal integrity. But they are tethered to a system.
Term limits are the one thing that could cut that tether. Without re-election to concern themself with, a representative in their fourth and last term would be more likely to vote on an issue by looking in the mirror at their principles and the legacy they want to leave as opposed to honoring party or campaign contributor wishes. Sometimes principles and politics match. But often I suspect they do not.
Our presidents are limited to two four-year terms. That’s fine. The current one, the bombastic Donald Trump, has exposed the paper mache product that is legislative experience. Trump is unlikeable to a significant portion of the populous and about 90 percent of the media that covers him. Much of that is his fault.
But his administration also has overseen unemployment that has dropped to 3.5 percent, a stock market that is growing 401k accounts like never before, tax cuts that are benefitting a sizable majority of the public, energy independence, criminal justice reform and overdue strategy changes to at least battle terrorism and nuclear threats abroad.
You can hate Trump or disagree with his policies. But, untethered by the usual political trappings, he is not afraid to try things he believes will solve problems. Stuffed shirt, term limitless Washington has failed at problem solving and needed a shakeup – from someone – and it happens to be a billionaire businessman.
The doomsayers who use their media partners as their resistance bullhorn have an unstated fear. If the country does not disintegrate, they are exposed by this administration. So California Rep. Adam Schiff spends all his time engineering impeachment over a publicly transcripted letter that illustrates, at most, improper language, while the Hollywood district he represents drowns in burgeoning homelessness.
The truth is there for any American to see — politics is not like splitting an atom. It is common sense problem solving. Lots of people of all political and party ties are capable of doing this public service, citizen legislator work capably. A lifetime tenure is not necessary.
But term limits are.
David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.