How to Reach Across the Political Aisle: Impose Term Limits in Congress

With the election here and the results coming later tonight (hopefully), there will be a flurry of activity as all politicians – both incoming and outgoing, Democrat and Republican, new hires and old hats – will want to talk about “let’s get back to governing.”

But is this what our politicians actually do? How much of their time and effort is motivated by and spent on seeking reelection after reelection so they can keep their power and position or rise up higher in committees and gain seniority? How much time does, for instance, a new representative have before they must devote the majority of their energy and attention towards reelection, as opposed to governing — hopefully for the people, and not for themselves? To me, this system in its current state is flawed and broken intrinsically since reelection and getting reelected is such a monumental and all-encompassing task for a politician, and instituting very firm and strict term limits across the board would go a long way toward getting the government back to being of the people and for the people.

In the model governance as demonstrated by our nation’s founders, being a politician wasn’t supposed to be like having a career by any means. Leaders from the communities and states would be called up for a term of service. They’d impact the change they could, and then return back to the places from which they came. It was supposed to be humble experience, motivated by a simple desire to make things better for your state, your nation, and by extension, yourself and your family for when you returned.

However, with the political parties having so much clout and authority today no politician can buck their party, lest campaign contributions don’t get funneled down to them (think about when Lieberman, a former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, had to run in Connecticut as an Independent after he, god forbid, disagreed with his party on a major issue). This, in my estimation, causes a lot of the political partisanship and the constant stalemates that we see. It’s not about getting things done. It’s about individual politicians doing what their party wants so they can stay in favor with them to maintain the party’s support for their reelection bids. Losing that support would be a death knell for almost anyone who would want to keep their political position.

What a novel concept it’d be, though, if a politician were to not care about what his party thought or whether he could keep his power, so he could reach across the aisle and create real compromise and solutions instead? What if all politicians knew, their experience in power couldn’t be a career, one that would benefit them for decades after their service?

Yes, there are some fair arguments about leaders needing decades of experience to be more effective at governing. And yes, there are some reasonable debates that, because getting elected wouldn’t hook them up for life, some politicians would use their term of service to just benefit their own needs, wants, and desires, and they’d give political favors exclusively for that purpose. Indeed, there isn’t one easy solution to the mistrust of and ineptitude seen in our government in its current manifestation. However, I would say that, well, if a politician is just going to work for themselves and not the people, it’s better to know that definitively after two years and not 20.

All of our leaders on the national level  –  senators, representatives, and the president – should have a strict limit of 8 years. Their terms should be one of service, and they should be made to return to the communities that they came from, to look their neighbors in the eye and say, this is what I tried to do for you. This is what I tried to do for us.