Where do you stand on term limits for Congress? If you’re for them, as I am, welcome to mainstream America!
Recent polls show strong American support for term limits. In January, 2013, a Gallup Poll found “75 percent of the public stated they would vote for term limits for Congress.” Similar polls conducted by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics in 2005, 2009, and 2010 reported “between 68 and 78 percent of Americans favored term limits.”
These findings, from polls across the political spectrum, are in line with earlier surveys from the 1990s, when House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his GOP majority pushed term limits for Congress in their “Contract with America” legislative agenda. However, term limits went nowhere in the Senate, and have gone nowhere in Congress since. But why?
Obviously, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Most Americans favor term limits for Congress. And rightly so. Still, Congress doesn’t get our message. Meanwhile, 66 House members have hung on for 20 years or longer, thanks to “safe” seats, crafted and cultivated for decades into cleverly gerrymandered districts that favor incumbents.
Along with other powers of incumbency, “safe” seats lead to lengthy terms in the House. Seven representatives have served at least 36 years. John Dingell, D-Mich., is in his 59th year of continuous service to his suburban Detroit constituents. Fifty-nine years. Is his “safe” district safe for anyone but him? I doubt it.
Another poster child for term limits is Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. He has served his Harlem constituents in the House since 1971, despite “being under a cloud of ethics violations.”
Then there’s Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a Los Angeles area politician who’s quitting Congress after clinging to power for 40 years. First elected to Congress in 1974, his reputation is a modest one, with good cause.
Dingell, Rangel, and Waxman are among the most egregious examples of career politicians, but there are scores more, in both parties, who differ only in degree.
With so many Americans clamoring anew for term limits, you’d think Congress would succumb to the pressure of We the People and at least propose a constitutional amendment similar to the Twenty-Second Amendment, but this time to limit their own tenure to, say, two six-year Senate terms and three four-year House terms. The latter would lessen the pressure for constant campaigning and frantic fundraising among House members.
Unfortunately, what you and I think is much less important than what matters most to our careerists in Congress. They’re fixated on getting reelected again and again. Their success rate of up to 90 percent since World II tells me voters are part of the problem, too. As long as we languish in apathy and ignorance, they will continue to thrive in their arrogance and indifference.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at email@example.com.