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Term limits needed now more than ever

By Micah Beckwith, Guest Writer

America is more polarized than at any time in its history except for the Civil War. American politics has divided families with parents and children no longer speaking. Family get-togethers are fraught with tension over politics. Lifelong friendships have collapsed. Marriages have ended due to this polarization. At work, people are frightened to mention politics for fear of being fired or offending a co-worker. Consumers even decide what brand of toothpaste they use based upon their politics, according to a study for Colgate.

So, in this political divide, what can Republicans, Democrats and Independents agree on? The need for congressional term limits.

A recent poll conducted by pollster Scott Rasmussen showed that 82% of Americans favor term limits for Congress. Broken down by party lines, 87% of Republicans favored congressional terms limits; 83% of Democrats favored term limits; and 78% of Independents favored the idea. George Washington could not get these kinds of numbers.

For many of our current members of Congress, serving in Congress has become a lucrative life-long job. We have one member of the House of Representatives who was first elected in 1972. In the Senate, we have a senator serving who was first elected in 1974. That is nearly 100 years in Congress between the two of them. Both sought re-election in 2022.

Things like this led Harry Truman to advocate term limits, saying, “Term limits would cure both; senility and seniority, both terrible legislative diseases.”
They see Congress as part of the problem for the dysfunction that we see today in our institutions.

According to Gallup, approval for Congress has not reached 30% in more than a decade. Voters don’t see Congress working for them; they see Congress as part of the problem for the dysfunction that we see today in our institutions.

So, what is the solution? Term limits for Congress.

But Congress will never vote to term limit themselves, right? Probably not. Although, there are members of Congress who favor congressional term limits and are backing legislation to enact it. This legislation faces stiff opposition from entrenched Washington insiders.

So, what can be done?

When enough states request a convention to add a term limits amendment to the Constitution, Congress is legally bound to comply. This allows states to make an end run around Congress. In fact, Dwight Eisenhower foresaw the need for this and said, “A constitutional amendment for congressional term limits could never achieve the blessing of Congress; it could be initiated only by the states.”

Five states — Florida, Alabama, Missouri, West Virginia and Wisconsin — have asked for a national convention to amend the Constitution limited to the subject of Congressional term limits. Indiana could be next.

The state legislature can pass a resolution calling for an Article V convention for congressional term limits only. A simple majority in the legislature is all that is required to do this.

Setting congressional term limits would take power away from the Washington insiders and lobbyists and give it back to where it belongs, the residents of each state.

or far too long, we have seen how staying in office for decades leads some of our elected officials to forget that they serve the voters not the entrenched special interests that reside in Washington.

As Benjamin Franklin, who supported term limits, aptly said, “In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors … For the former to return among the latter does not degrade, but promote them.”
And, most importantly, it would lead to a Congress that is responsive to the issues facing everyday Americans. This would lead to real solutions for our nation, not the chaos we see daily in Washington.

Setting congressional term limits will be a step to ending the political circus that has polarized and divided our nation. It will restore balance in our electoral process. It will return power to where it should reside, with the voters.

Term limits means Congress will develop fundamental solutions, not incremental solutions that please the lobbyists but forget the voters. Now, more than ever before, we need congressional term limits. Let’s make sure that the Hoosier state takes the lead in getting this done.

Editor’s note: Micah Beckwith is the Indiana state chair for U.S. Term Limits, the largest grassroots term limits advocacy group in the country. To learn more, visit online at termlimits.org.

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