Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Our Experience with Experience

exit, term limits, experience, Congress, oversight, Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker

It seems exceedingly plausible that the longer one serves as a legislator, the better legislator one would become.

Yet voters back home have noticed something: the longer in office, the less representative their so-called representative tends to become.

No wonder that in those states where Americans have been permitted to vote on congressional terms limits, that vote has been a resounding, “Let’s limit ’em!”

In a Washington Post op-ed, Greg Weiner, associate professor of political science at Assumption College, praised Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as “voices for congressional power” and “defenders of congressional prerogative.” He worries their departure weakens Congress as an institution, further eroding a critical check on the president and the executive branch.

“The problem pertains far less to opposition to this president,” Weiner points out, “than to the long-range erosion of congressional resistance to the presidency as an institution.”

This caught my attention because we desperately need Congress to function as a co-equal branch of government and because opponents of state legislative limits* often assert a similar argument: term-limited legislatures are less able to check the power of the governor and executive branch agencies.

“Congress has been in decline for generations,” Weiner acknowledges. What else has been happening over this time? Politicians have been loitering in Congress longer and longer, term after term after term. 

Hmmm. The correlation is between a weakened Congress and more experience, not less.

Let’s further note that Flake is only in his first Senate term and Corker his second.

After nearly four decades in office, is, say, doddering Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), providing better oversight?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* The 15 states that have them — Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota — contain 37 percent of us.

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By: CS Admin


  1. Paul L Veazey says:

    The bottom line, though, is that voters at every level already have a mechanism for limiting politicians’ time in office, the vote. Voters who keep returning to office elected officials who care more about their own little fiefdoms than the people’s business have no one to blame but themselves. What term limits supporters really mean is that there are too many voters out there who are too stupid, too uninformed or too venal to be trusted with deciding whether and when to toss the bums out. I actually agree there are a lot of stupid, ignorant and venal voters and am frustrated when their votes override those of enlightened and responsible voters like me but that is one of the prices we pay for having a representative republic in which the qualifications for being allowed to vote are minimal, which most Americans seem to think is a good idea.

  2. Pat says:

    The reporter is suddenly concerned about Congress ‘checking’ the executive branch?   Where has he been for the last thirty years?   Congress has systematically surrendered much of its power to the executive, in many areas.   Just look at PPACA.  Instead of taking responsibility for what was passed, Congress delegated to the Executive Branch the power to issue rules and regulations regarding what had to be covered.   
    Was this reporter all that concerned when Democrats in Congress refused to investigate abuse of power in the Obama administration?   I doubt it.   The problem isn’t longevity, it’s partisanship.
    Term limits won’t solve this problem.   Just look at the Senate.  Only one third of the members come up every two years.  Some will go but over two thirds will remain.   The seniority system guarantees more power the longer you stay.    Voters in Tennessee and Arizona stood up to their two senators and suddenly, the two of them are ‘retiring, but they are exceptions.   My solution, albeit an imperfect one, is to repeal the 17th Amendment.   Return the Senate to its original purpose: representing the interests of the state governments.
    Term limits might have more impact on the House, though it will remain limited.   People like to blame gerrymandering but Americans have self-segregated in a way not seen in decades. Districts will remain red or blue, until a cataclysm of some type forces voters to rethink their choices.  We may get new faces in Congress, but the interests they represent will remain the same and many of those interests are vested in big government..   Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  3. Paul, I fear that term limits will never be enacted in any state without the initiative and never at the national level. So how about an alternative. Why not mandate that Congressional committee hearings and meetings of the House and Senate be done virtually. The congress critters would office in their home districts or states. That might partially drain the swamp.

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