Over Coffee And A Donut

Over the years I’ve had many conversations about term limits for members of congress. The catalyst for the latest one was frustration over where we stood a few hours before I penned this on Monday morning. It appears that a best case scenario is that an eleventh hour agreement resulting in a CR that  would keep the government open until some new self-imposed deadline. Keep in mind a budget was due back in September of 2023 and our best hope is to again kick the can further down the road and operate under an extended 2022 agreement. Few, if any, employers would tolerate that kind of job performance from their employees and few, if any, educators would pass a student with a similar performance.

Enough pontificating, let me return to today’s root subject: term limits. While I agree with the goal of a better performing congress via getting the unproductive out of there, term limits, as expounded by the people making that argument, won’t do the job. My position begs explanation and I intend to provide it below.

My initial reply falls on deaf ears but it is true. We already have term limits; they are called elections. The dead wood keeps getting sent back to DC by the voters. Senators must face the voters every six years and their House counterparts every two. The voters keep reelecting them, that’s how they keep going back. If a player wasn’t performing and you were the team’s GM you wouldn’t renew their contract. Why should it be any different with your Senator or Representative? The people not the system is the problem.

Uninformed, misinformed and non-voters are the culprits. Most Americans simply cast misinformed votes. Many don’t pay enough attention and/or only pay attention between Labor Day and Election Day. The latter are easily misled and manipulated. An informed electorate is necessary for the optimal performance of a representative democracy. Fox News is still the primary source of political information for many Americans. That is after they have already been fined over three-quarters of a billion dollars for knowingly and repeatedly broadcasting lies.

Not voting is the biggest problem. 2020 was the best turnout ever with 66% of eligible voters casting a ballot. That means that one-third of eligible voters sat it out. In both the 2018 (49%) and 2022 (46%) midterm elections less than half of the eligible voters actually showed up. In each of those elections all the House and one-third of the Senate seats were on the ballot. Keep in mind I’m using registered voters as the base; what about all the people who are eligible to vote but don’t even register? I could be incorrect but to my knowledge only Jehovah’s Witnesses are religiously prohibited from voting and they account for less than 1% of the U. S.  population. My proposal is that Congress pass a law requiring all eligible adults to cast a ballot. The exemptions I would allow would be for the mentally incapable and religiously prohibited. You could hand in a blank ballot if you chose to but you have to cast one or be subject to a penalty.

The two biggest obstacles my proposed law would face are Congress and the Supreme Court. Even with our low voter turnouts Republicans still have an (albeit not large) advantage and congressional Republicans would never vote for my proposal. If somehow it made it out of Congress, the Supreme Court being as openly partisan as it is today, would declare it to be unconstitutional. Their reasoning would probably be that the original text of the Constitution doesn’t specifically make voting an obligation. That is hogwash but I’ll save those arguments for another time.

If somehow congressional term limits became the law of the land. It still would not solve the root problem. We would simply see a sort of political musical chairs game played with term limited persons simply running for another office only to be replaced by someone term limited out of their own prior held office. Result: same people only in different seats. Keep in mind the base pay in both chambers is identical.

The process exists and the solution is you. Cast an informed vote!

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