Why Term Limits are a Bad Idea

As we learn more and more about Washington corruption, it has become increasingly obvious that there really is a corrupt Washington bureaucracy, a “swamp”. The recent impeachment fiasco put a spotlight on the House and the Senate. How many of these elected officials showed themselves to be true statesmen who put country and Constitution first? 

Many people say that the way to deal with the Washington “swamp” is to have term limits. This seems logical. If Representatives and Senators are required to leave office, fresh and more idealistic replacements would move in. At least that is the theory. However, in practice, all that term limits will do is to stir the swamp. It will not drain the swamp. Now when Representatives or Senators leave office many get employment in the swamp. That will not change. Term limits will move elected officials more quickly into the large group of unelected bureaucrats and consultants working in the swamp. 

Why would anyone think that voters will be more likely to choose candidates who would be less likely to become corrupted just because there are term limits? If voters want better candidates, then they should vote them in. Voters already have the power to limit terms. 

As a long time observer of the House and Senate, I must also point out that being a leader in the House requires a pretty sound knowledge of House rules and procedures. Leadership in the Senate requires even more knowledge. Term limits would get rid of some bad officials, but it would also mean that there would not be anyone with a long institutional history in office. This would have the unintended effect of putting more power into the hands of unelected staffers and parliamentarians who are the most likely people to be a part of the swamp. 

Term limits may seem like a good idea, but are not the answer. The unintended consequences of term limits will make the swamp even more institutionalized and worse. 

JSK/01/31/2020

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