One reason most Americans support term limits for members of Congress is that we see how the power of public office changes people. Not just political hacks, but thoughtful and dedicated people, too.
Now we have another example in Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. Wellstone is known as a liberal Democrat. But in Minnesota the two major parties are relatively competitive and the governor is independent Jesse Ventura. So Wellstone’s reputation as an idealistic college professor who cares more about helping the little guy than a political career was key to his defeating a powerful incumbent and winning two terms in the Senate. And he said two terms would be all. That’s what Wellstone pledged to voters in 1990 and again in 1996: two terms and then he’d come home. Now he’s changed his mind.
Once again we see firsthand that good people can go to Washington and get co-opted. And when it comes to breaking one’s word, true bipartisanship reigns. Republican House member Ron Lewis of Kentucky announced he is breaking his word to step down after eight years in office. Lewis isn’t a teacher like Wellstone, but rather a Baptist preacher.
If idealistic teachers and idealistic preachers can be corrupted by power, how can we expect the average politician to stay the course? That’s why we need term limits.
This is Common Sense.Â I’m Paul Jacob.