By Graham Glover –
In March of 1947 the United States Congress passed the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, limiting the number of 4-year terms an individual can serve as president to 2. 4 years later it was ratified by the States and consequently became law of the land. Only FDR has served as president for more than 2 terms. If given the opportunity, I think more of our presidents would follow FDRs model. And this is a good thing – for Republicans and Democrats – and why it’s time to repeal the 22nd Amendment, allowing our presidents to serve as long as the voters want them.
If you think such a suggestion stands contrary to our nation’s governing principles, I remind you that we didn’t have this amendment until 1951. And don’t go quoting George Washington or Thomas Jefferson on me or noting that nobody prior to FDR served for more than 2 terms. They could have – most chose not to. Some tried: Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. But just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.
What possible reasons do I have for allowing our presidents to serve longer?
1) 8 years is not nearly long enough for a president to fully implement his/her policies. It probably takes 3-4 years to get things rolling, and assuming Congress is moderately willing to pass the president’s legislation, 6-7 years to really get an idea what the president can do. At 8 years we’re just beginning to realize the potential of our nation’s leader. If the voters like the direction the country is heading, why change course? If they don’t like it, well, that’s why we have elections.
2) Our current system is severely complicated by our election cycle. Consider that the president’s re-election campaign begins in earnest at year 2, immediately following the mid-year elections. At year 6, following the second mid-year elections, the president effectively becomes a lame-duck. If the president can seek a 3rd term, the dynamics of the first re-election campaign, the second mid-year elections, and the 2 years that follows are entirely different, and I think, much more conducive to governing.
3) Term limits as a whole are bad for government. Honestly, they shouldn’t exist on any level, especially in a federal election. Limiting one’s time in office does nothing but give more power to lobbyists and government bureaucrats/staffers. These folks seldom leave and their agendas remain the same, as they serve their respective companies/agencies. If a president can continue to serve past 8 years, these special interests will see their influence significantly limited giving the voice of the people more significance.
4) Term limits deny the voters the ability to elect their candidate of choice. I’m guessing Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both would have been elected to a 3rd terms (if they chose to run). These presidents represent the icons of the modern Republican and Democratic parties and are used as the measuring stick for both parties today. So if they were that good, why not let them stay in office? If you are a Republican would you have preferred a 3rd Reagan term or George HW Bush? If you are a Democrat would Al Gore ever have been your nominee? Think about it…
(As an aside, I wonder what the Democrats would do with Obama if he could seek a 3rd term. Thoughts?)
My suggestion is not as crazy as it may initially sound. Others have tried, but have gained little traction in their efforts. But considering everything noted above (which are not novel ideas), I don’t understand why more people and elected officials don’t support this repeal.
(As another aside, I would apply the same logic to ecclesial elections. Absent an Episcopal system, getting rid of term limits would be a good thing for the Church as well.)
Who’s with me? Who’s ready to repeal the 22nd?