Monday, March 15, 2010

Emery: The positives of term limits outweigh the negatives

In his latest report, Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, a candidate for the 28th District Senate seat currently held by term-limited Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, weighs the pros and cons of term limits:

Because I am term limited this year in the Missouri House, the question about term limits comes more frequently - is it a blessing or a curse. The answer is YES! It is both just like any election is both; you may lose a public servant you wanted to keep or get a politician you did not want. That is the root of a republic and why we have elections. To quote a friend, "Term limits is a bad idea whose time has come."

Term limits came to Missouri because the people grew tired of professional politicians who only left office to run for a higher one. The power of the incumbency and the inattention of far too many Missourians made it nearly impossible to unseat anyone. The average politician seemed more committed to the politics of holding power than to his oath to defend the constitution. The people grew tired of this quest for power and the steady abandonment of the constitution that was moving Missouri away from "of the people, by the people, for the people" and toward government to the people.

I believe the good of term limits still outweighs the bad, but the real question is have we achieved the people’s objectives; I fear we have not. First, incumbency is even stronger because Missouri essentially has eight-year terms now instead of two or four-year. There are fewer primary elections because it is easier to just wait out the term limit. Secondly, power-politics is more prevalent today, not less. From the moment of election today’s most ambitious politicians begin positioning themselves for the next office. It’s more important than ever to make the right "friends", align with the right power brokers and financiers, and promote or derail the "proper" issues.

Since term limits tends to increase the number of candidates for an office (more open seats), the right alliances and leadership positions may be seen as a way to gain an advantage in fund raising or influence. Thus, the vicious cycle of winning and holding onto political power and the big money it demands has been accelerated, not diminished.

Additionally, with a term-limited-eye to the next office, or to leaving office for a profitable alternative, the temptation is to seek the favor of an anticipated constituency over the one who elected you or to leave office early because of term-limited timing. Neither makes representation more effective and may make it less effective. A result is that in both the senate and the house it has become extremely difficult if not impossible to pass meaningful reforms because true reform is usually controversial. And controversy may cost you a constituency or a lobbyist needed for the next office.

I was told before my first election "if you go to Jeff City to make friends you won’t do anybody any good." Good advice! - But term limits have made making friends a bigger part of holding office than before. The political games have become more prevalent, not less. Advice I offer to those newly elected or running for office is "you have to know the game; you don’t have to play the game." But in a term limited world that advice is harder to defend.

Term limits does some good, but they won’t alter the nature of man or the responsibility of the electorate to discern, confront, and vote. You are the ultimate solution because this is America! The constitution belongs to you. I am just elected to defend it because only it and your right to bear arms stand between you and tyranny.


Anonymous said...

Amen to term limits. Now if we could only get them at the federal level . . . .

Anonymous said...

I dislike term limits. Find a way to eliminate the incumbent advantage, rather than restricting options for the citizenry.