Foes of term limits love to repeat their favorite mantra, “We already have term limits — they’re called elections.”
This clichéd counsel urges us to ignore how term limits and other checks on government power can . . . well, check government power. Many incumbents prefer to remain effectively unchallenged when it comes to retaining, using, and abusing their power. And the advantages of incumbency can render election campaigns uncompetitive and even meaningless.
Political monopoly’s dangers, studiously ignored by many domestic critics of term limits, are often vividly illustrated by the latest news from abroad. Take Panama. Advocates of limited government at first applauded the election there of a successful businessman, Ricardo Martinelli, as president. Three years on, though, he’s looking like a standard-issue power-grabber.
In the Wall Street Journal, Mary O’Grady details how Martinelli is seeking to expand his power. A court-packing scheme is one of his gambits. Critics also see egregious cronyism in his political appointments. And, yes, Martinelli wants the power to immediately run again for office when his current term expires — even though Panama’s constitution prohibits consecutive presidential terms.
The Supreme Court would have to give the nod to any evading of the term limit. Hence the president’s desire to add a few buddies to the current nine-member bench.
Such is the pattern in Central America, Africa, Asia, everywhere.
Assaults on term limits tend to be part and parcel of assaults on rights and liberties. No coincidence.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.