Most of us have probably heard this statement: “We already have term limits. We call them elections.”
This argument doesn’t hold up — notably at the federal level. Congressional representatives and senators from California, for instance, can draft legislation which, if passed and signed into law, would affect the entire United States of America, not just California. Yet the people of 49 states can’t vote these legislators out.
One obvious advantage of incumbency is name recognition. Voters may dislike an incumbent; but, as we’ve heard, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”
In pursuing a constitutional amendment for term limits, we might first consider targeting judges — and next go after Congress. Elections, which some of us call “term limits,” don’t apply to judges at the federal level. Ditto for many at the state level. Radical social engineering, abhorrent to most Americans, generally can’t survive the normal legislative process; but radical agendas still find their way into our lives through judicial fiat. Group “entitlements,” assaults on the free market system, and disregard of private property rights often result from rulings by judges who seem determined to achieve immortality by legislating from the bench. Case in point: the Affordable (?) Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.
Is this so surprising when, after all, these judges do not have to answer directly to the voters?
The current system of lifetime tenure can extend a president’s influence several decades beyond the end of a second term in the Oval Office. No wonder we see so much hysteria among advocacy groups on the political Left or Right each time a president nominates someone for the Supreme Court.
In The Liberty Amendments, published in 2013, author and radio host Mark Levin proposes an amendment that would limit Supreme Court justices to twelve years. This is eminently reasonable. Such a limit ought to extend to the entire federal judiciary.
Although term limits did not find their way into the Constitution during the founding of the American republic, a careful study of history shows that a number of the founding fathers favored such limits and vigorously advocated their adoption. They feared and distrusted a government in which officeholders could remain in power indefinitely, as so many manage to do now.