Are term limits just a fad? Are they the hula-hoop of the 90’s? That’s what some political pundits tell us.
Well, they should check their history books. Term limits are nearly as old as democracy itself. The ancient Greeks realized that even if elected democratically, elected officials could use their power to monopolize the office. Aristotle argued that term limits should be an essential part of any republic’s constitution. Cicero, the famous Roman statesmen, was a strong believer in term limits.
In America, term limits pre-date the constitution. And in fact, no less than the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, opposed ratifying our constitution until two problems were fixed. He wanted, first, a bill of rights, and second, rotation in office what we call term limits. Jefferson’s first concern was dealt with by The Bill of Rights, but Americans are still trying to find a way to place term limits on Congress.
Even when the law didn’t require rotation in office, American tradition has. President Washington stepped down after two terms. Until Franklin Roosevelt, other presidents followed that tradition. Now presidential term limits are part of the Constitution.
Term limits a fad? Well, it’s the law for the President, 38 governors, 18 state legislatures and thousands of local officials. Nothing against the hula-hoop, but term limits will be around a lot longer.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.