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July 5, 2023

You’ve heard the saying, "Two things you should never watch being made -- a law and sausage." I don't agree with half of that. I've been involved in lawmaking as a Lieutenant Governor presiding over the State Senate and as a Governor negotiating every step of the process with a legislature that was 90 percent Democrat. I've also seen sausage made.

I still eat sausage.

For the faint of heart and those without a strong stomach, seeing the process of politics become the process of governing can result in serious reactions. It's not a pretty process. It can be tedious, exasperating, and embarrassing. But let me let you in on a little secret: it’s supposed to be!

Recently, some Congressional Democrats have been publicly ranting over what an offense to “our democracy” it is that they can’t ram through their agenda with a one-vote majority. Some are pushing to blow up the system that slows down their efforts to enact what they claim “the people” (i.e., “them”) want, from eliminating the Senate filibuster to stacking the Supreme Court with partisan political appointees.

POLL: Do you support term limits? Vote here.

This is what John Adams called “the tyranny of the majority.” It’s not only poison to the American system, it’s also a really stupid political tactic. Apparently, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin were the only Democrats who understood how dumb it is to strip all power from the minority when you’re just one election and one seat away from being the minority yourself (see the 2022 House elections.)

As hard as it may be to believe, making a law was never designed by our Founding Fathers to be quick and simple. When they wrote and approved the Constitution, they intended for the passage of a bill into law to be a hard slog. They feared that passion would overwhelm reason and thoughtfulness, and so they built in plenty of speed bumps to make sure that a bill never whizzed through Congress and got signed by the President as hurriedly as some celebrities go through rounds of rehab.

Now, I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers didn't want total gridlock in Congress, but as much as it may surprise you, they would prefer gridlock to haste. Why? Because they feared government in the same way I fear snakes, spiders, and sharks. They knew that the sheer power of it is an intoxicant and that most of the people who enter government will be like sixteen-year-old boys with keys to the liquor cabinet whose parents are gone for the weekend.Watching Congress make laws and oversee regulation is a lot like watching sixteen-year-olds with booze and a BMW. You get the distinct impression that they have no business with either one, and a crash is inevitable.

This is why I have long been a proponent of term limits, which are hardly a new idea. The concept dates back to ancient Rome and Greece, with the great Greek philosopher Aristotle observing, “It is not so easy to do wrong in a short as in a long tenure of office.”

This idea was most famously summed up many years later by English historian, politician and author Lord Acton, who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The current DC bureaucracy seems to be trying their best to become a living illustration that absolute power corrupts absolutely and turns you into a bad person.

In 1807, half-way through his own second term, President Thomas Jefferson warned that "if some termination to the services of the chief Magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally four years, will in fact become for life."

The popular novelist James Fenimore Cooper summed up the prevailing American attitude in 1838 when he said that "contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed." This might explain why so many of them retire (if they ever do retire) as multi-millionaires after a life selflessly devoted to “public service.”

Historian Robert Struble notes that the American preference for turnover in leadership was so deeply ingrained that it took until the twentieth century for the concept of “career politicians” to take hold. Unfortunately, among the many bad ideas that arose in the twentieth century, like Nazism, socialism, and letting movie actors talk, came the argument that a lifetime of "experience" in government was a far more valuable asset than a fresh perspective or a knowledge of business, farming, or other fields in which the vast majority of Americans work. Not everyone swallowed that argument, including twentieth-century Presidents of both parties.

In 1953, after deciding not to run for a third term, Democrat President Harry Truman said:

“In my opinion, eight years as President is enough and sometimes too much for any man to serve in that capacity. There is a lure in power. It can get into a man's blood just as gambling and lust for money have been known to do.”

Interesting quote, considering that he became President only because he was Franklin Roosevelt's Vice President when FDR died in office shortly after being reelected to his fourth term.

Republican Calvin Coolidge, who was President in the 1920s, said:

“When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions...It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.”

Old “Silent Cal” must have been truly passionate about this subject because I believe those are the most words he ever said in one sitting.

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Comments 1-10 of 75

  • Joan Berwaldt

    07/05/2023 01:42 PM

    I am TOTALLY in favor of term limits for congress!!

  • Martha Lockwood

    07/05/2023 01:05 PM

    In total agreement with term limits.

    Problem is, it falls to the very ones who benefit from no limits to terminate their cushy incumbencies. Very, very few capable of acting against their own self-interest. In other words, when pigs fly.

  • Sylvia Lewis

    01/04/2023 02:05 PM

    I totally agree with you, but HOW can term limits be imposed when the ones voting for them don't want to lose their jobs? So (I am truly asking) how can we get this done?

  • Paul Martin

    01/03/2023 12:13 PM

    The problem with Congress is NOT "career" politicians. And it's NOT about lack of relevant "qualifications" or "skills". The problem with Congress is a LACK of HONESTY and INTEGRITY in so-called "representatives of the people", who often have "qualifications" and "skills", but either disregard them or use them dishonestly whenever their personal biases dictate.
    We desperately need men of honesty and integrity, backed up by relevant qualifications and skills -- AND we need to avoid making public service a greater sacrifice than is necessary. It is difficult enough to get quality candidates, willing to set aside promising careers in business, to offer themselves for public service. But when you make public service a "temp" job, you add an unnecessary barrier, not only for the candidate (interrupting and jeopardizing a private sector career, while he takes a government "temp" job), but also to the public interest in obtaining AND RETAINING the services of such quality candidates who are also a rare commodity.
    What could be more to the advantage of the nation than to have a life commitment from a man of honesty and integrity who is well qualified and skilled?

    PS - When those rare men of honesty and integrity are found, they will replace those mental and spiritual "adolescents" who remind you of 16 year olds with the booze and the keys, and who should NEVER have been given ANY power in the first place.
    The men we need DO exist. They have been sprinkled throughout history, many of whom were fervent believers in the God who created and watches over our world, and they remained faithful to the end of their lives, knowing that they NEVER possessed "absolute power", never COULD have possessed it (knowing God's pre-eminence), and thus were never tempted to accept such a delusion.
    Consider Moses, for example, who said on the eve of his departure from this world:
    "O Lord GOD, you have BEGUN TO SHOW your servant your greatness, and your mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, who can do according to your works, and according to your might?"
    This is how such men think of themselves at the end of their lives, typically MORE humble at the end than they were at the start -- "I have only just begun to learn". And these are the men we need to lead and watch over us.
    Further reading:
    Philippians 1:21-25 (the apostle Paul - self-sacrificing to care for the needs of others)
    Philippians 3:8-14 (the apostle Paul - an example of dedication and humility)
    II Peter 1:12-16 (the apostle Peter - soon to leave this world, but still dedicated to the needs of others)

  • Larry Polston

    01/03/2023 09:52 AM

    Methinks this year is incorrect, "In 1953, after deciding not to run for a third term, Democrat President Harry Truman said:......"

    The election was in 1952, the year of my birth. I don't remember the campaign between Dwight D Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson II in 1952, but I do remember going with my Dad to Grandpa's house to watch the inauguration of Dwight D Eisenhower on television. Okay, I remember the inauguration on January 20, 1957, for his second term.

    I found an article that attributed the quote to Truman on 16 April 1950.

    I think this error should be classified as a "mistake". The lies from our current politicians are not mistakes. They are intentional.

  • Barbara Weller

    01/02/2023 03:29 PM

    I'm still waiting for you to address the 2 issues that I keep bringing up about term limits: 1) That would only increase the power of legislative staffers and lobbyists (who would remain as new Senators got acclimated), and 2) A better idea is to go back to the Founders' better idea and repeal the 17th Amendment (the direct election of Senators). That's the real problem, not term limits. If the state legislatures sent the Senators to D.C. (as the Founders intended), the Senators would be more attuned to their states than to their lobbyists.

  • Marlene Jensen

    01/02/2023 02:47 PM

    Why expect any Congress to vote for any term limits? It will probably take an amendment to the Constitution, and even that is doubtful.

  • Peter G Dausen

    01/02/2023 02:20 PM

    WRT term limits, absolutely agree as public service should truly be service not self-serving however the term limits need to be correctly executed. California has term limits but career politicians figure out a way around them through redistricting, moving to other locations, transitioning to government appointments, etc. Very hard to get completely rid of cockroaches! Thanks for listening!

  • Rick Fasnacht

    01/02/2023 02:13 PM

    Term limits are a must and need to be figured out, and implemented as quick as possible, as I remember? this was NOT to be a permanent position, per the founding fathers.

  • rodney burke

    01/02/2023 12:56 PM

    We don't need term limits near as much a we do accountability. Which there is virtually none. We don't look at the track record of anyone. Does Nancy, Ted kennedy, Chuckie, Shifty, Swalwell and Mitch come to mind? How about the ovomit and his crew? There is no present mechanism to reMOVE the trash from office. That should be a priority with the states. It's time state had a means to remove a failed electee. Their record is public, there needs to be a public accounting. DT should has trashed Comey and McCabe LONG before he trashed Comey. The only reason we have career politicians is they are NOT accountable to anyone, Time to change that. Newt did once.