It's time for term limits

March 13, 2010

Congress sits in intractable inaction. Every perceived personal or political affront is etched into the memories of our representatives, spurring partisan retribution when future opportunities arise. The will of the people is sacrificed for the preservation of the party and the tenure of the person. Only by wresting control from career politicians can we infuse fresh attitudes, fresh ideas and much needed solutions into our government. We must impose term limits for members of the House and Senate.

The founding fathers recognized the danger of allowing anyone to hold office for an extended period. Indeed, democracy as invented by the ancient Greeks employed a regular rotation of representatives. We have acted to prevent tyranny from developing in the executive branch by adopting the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, yet our failure to similarly address the legislative branch has led to an oligarchy in Congress. It does not take special political acumen to reason why such disparity exists: It is against legislators' self interest to limit their own terms. All rationales proffered by incumbents regarding the importance of experience and continuity are, at best, secondary to their motivation of self preservation.

Congressional term limits help ensure that, more than just represent us, our members of Congress are of us. We need political office to be the means of implementing our consensus, not simply the ends for one person's career aspirations. There may be, and probably are, many humble, dutiful representatives in Washington who do not put career ahead of legislative integrity. But as the health care reform debate has shown us, a little insurance is a good thing. We need six-year term limits for both houses.

Stephen R. Coutant

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