Publius-Huldah's Blog

Understanding the Constitution

Term Limits: Treating the Symptom – not the Disease.

By Publius Huldah

1. We already have term limits for U.S. Representatives & Senators – just vote them out of office.  But we keep re-electing the same people!  So, the people in the term limits movement seek to impose term limits by amending the Constitution to impose them.  And somehow, this is supposed to fix our problems.

2. But the term limits movement is a distraction which diverts us from dealing with the real cause of our problems: Our legislators disregard the Constitution.  So why do we keep re-electing them? Because we don’t care that they disregard the Constitution, or we don’t have a clue as to what the Constitution means.

So, unless we turn over a new leaf, learn the Constitution, teach it to others, and start demanding that legislators obey the Constitution, limiting their terms by law just increases the turnover of legislators who disregard the Constitution.

3. To those of you who are so keen to amend the Constitution:  Instead of expending your energies to amend the Constitution to impose “term limits”, why not focus on getting an Amendment which repeals the 17th Amendment? That is a worthy aim.

a) As originally written, Senators were chosen by the State Legislatures (Art. I, Sec. 3, clause 1), and the Senators represented their States! In Federalist No. 62 (3rd & 5th paras), Madison pointed out that the appointment of Senators by the State legislatures was to secure the authority of the State governments in the federal government.  He also said,   “…the equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty…” in order to guard “…against an improper consolidation of the States into one simple republic”.

Does this not make you weep?

b) Thanks in part to the blind fools who supported the 17th Amendment, which provides for the popular election of U.S.  Senators,  “federalism” has been obliterated; and the sovereignty of the States destroyed.    Go here to understand “federalism”.

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April 2, 2010 - Posted by | 17th Amendment, Term Limits Amendment

13 Comments »

  1. In addition to the repeal of the 17th amendment please consider the following.

    Politicians are becoming less and less responsive to their constituencies and even less concerned about their responsibilities to protect and defend our constitution. I believe that this is largely due to campaign financing that has become so diffused in origin that the politicians are losing sight of whom they are sent to office to represent and protect. They are joining a fraternity with little or no actual responsibility or attachment to their constituency.

    I propose that politicians should be allowed to accept campaign money only from individual citizens who reside within the boundaries of their constituency. Corporations, Unions, PACS, and Parties should be excluded. These entities certainly have a right to communicate their preferences to their memberships, but they do not have the right to take money from all of their membership for political uses in direct opposition to the core beliefs and values of some of their membership. All contributions need to be open and transparent. Stiff penalties should be assessed for political money laundering.

    Also, any donated funds remaining unspent after a campaign would be turned over to the general fund of the constituency. There should be no need for an honest politician who is representing his constituency within the boundaries of the constitution to need a “War Chest”. Nor should he be allowed to transfer contributions intended for his election to another politician, especially one outside the same constituency, without specific permission from each individual donor.

    Further, politicians should not receive any health care or retirement benefits exceeding those available to their general constituency, nor extending beyond their term in office.

    Politicians should also, with limited exceptions, be expected to return to their home after their term in office for a period not less than half of their time in office. They need to return to the garden or mess they helped create.

    Political contributions are a form of free speech. They do not need to be limited, but the citizens have a right to know who’s “speaking”. With that in mind we must also balance the right to free speech with each citizen’s right to equal representation. Contributions from outside one’s constituency (City, County, District, State, National, etc.) threaten the rights of the individuals within that constituency to responsive and equal representation. Politicians invariably serve their source of money.

    Like

    Comment by FiddlerBob | July 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. First off – your commentaries provide excellent “think points” – thank you – Hooah!
    Repealing the 17th amendment will go a long way to reconstituting the states (and the citizenry’s) rightful place in the hierarchy of political power intended by the Constitution.
    On the issue of term limits:
    Given the existent relatively enormous political power of unions, lobbyists, entrenched party “good old boy networks”, and a political agenda-driven mainstream media, term limits are an effective way for the citizenry to obtain relief from what has become a class of professional politicians.
    I do not believe that the framers of the constitution envisioned a legislative branch comprised of professional politicians in whole or in art.
    If term limits are not acceptable for the legislative branch, then why is it acceptable for the President (and for all practical purposes members of SCOTUS and other Federal Judicial positions).

    Like

    Comment by John | June 13, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi, John, Basically, the problem is this: We have abandoned altogether the concept of “self-government”. We don’t even know the original meaning of the term. Most people today think “self-government” means that we have a Congress which makes laws, as opposed to the British Parliament making the laws. But that is not true.

      In its original sense, “self-government” means that each person governs himself, controlling his own passions, taking responsibility for his own life. Planning, self-discipline, etc. Americans actually used to take responsibility for their own lives and families!

      But today! The morbidly obese get surgery which makes it impossible for them to stuff themselves with food, instead of restraining (governing) themselves. We don’t need to discipline ourselves to save money and plan for our own retirement – the government does it for us. We don’t need to eat a healthy diet and exercise – when we give ourselves diabetes, cancer & heart disease, the taxpayers pay our medical bills. If we don’t trouble ourselves to study in school, we go on welfare! We don’t expect young people to restrain their sexual impulses – so the government schools hand out free condoms to underage children. Do you see? Self-government, self-control, self-discipline are all GONE.

      We re-elect bad people again & again & again. Whose fault is that? It’s our fault! We are *ourselves* so morally corrupt that we simply do not care that the people we elect are corrupt. Or we do not trouble ourselves to learn about the candidates so that we can make informed decisions. We want the loot which they promise to get for us. Or we are lazy.

      WE ARE THE PROBLEM! What’s needed is a moral regeneration of the people. A restoration of the concept of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

      Term limits is just another band-aid. It’s telling the People: “We don’t expect you to make wise & moral choices. So we are going to make it impossible for you to make the same bad choice more than two or three times.”

      Don’t you see? It’s lap band surgery. It’s a condom for an underage child.

      Instead of urging imposition of still another band-aid, why not work to restore the concept of personal responsibility & self-government (in its original sense).

      And Stay in Touch. PH

      Like

      Comment by Publius/Huldah | June 14, 2010 | Reply

      • In my view and thoughtful research, the 17th Amendment was not properly ratified by 100% of the States at the time. There are those (Bensen, et al) who have researched this in every statehouse. It appears that this Amendment is the only one that needed 100% ratifiation?

        Article V last phrase: “and that no State without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate”.

        Seems plain to me…. but again….

        Like

        Comment by Michael-P | January 19, 2013 | Reply

        • Article V of the federal Constitution requires approval of only 3/4 of the States before an Amendment is effective, with only two exceptions.

          The last phrase of Article V doesn’t apply to the 17th Amendment. Because both before and after the 17th Amendment, each State got two Votes (U.S. Senators) in the U.S. Senate.

          The last phrase of Article V would apply if an Amendment proposed that larger States get more U.S. Senators than smaller States. Such an Amendment would require that ALL the States getting fewer than the greatest number of U.S. Senators ratify the Amendment.

          Like

          Comment by Publius Huldah | January 19, 2013 | Reply

          • I was under the impression that allowing the ‘people of the several States’ to elect the Senators deprived the State their equal vote in the Senate (Art I Sec3, Cl1) . Now the ‘people of the several States’ elect the representatives and the Senators. How could that not deprive the State of it’s vote?.

            Your response in the last paragraph doesn’t make sense to me, and your response in 2nd paragraph says ” ..both before and after the 17th Amendment, each State got two Votes (U.S. Senators) in the U.S. Senate.” How do States have ANY vote in the Senate if they have no ability to choose [“2 Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature”] the Senators. ????

            Like

            Comment by Michael-P | January 19, 2013

          • You are mislead by your “impresssions” – they are wrong, so you must lay them aside. Otherwise, you will not be able to see the clear simple Truth.

            Before the 17th Amendment, how many Senators did each State have? TWO (2)

            After the 17th Amendment, how many Senators did each State have? TWO (2).

            So the last phrase of the Article V doesn’t apply. Each State still has equal suffrage in the Senate – each State has two (2) votes in the Senate.

            Like

            Comment by Publius Huldah | January 19, 2013

  3. I agree that term limits are a redundant exercise if, and this is a big if, the electorate and the elected return to the original concept of “citizen-statesman”. No matter how “good” an elected official is, the rarified air of political power in DC turns them into elite, effete power mongers if they spend more than 6-8 years there. One way of curtailing the appeal of permanent DC residency would be to reducing Congressional pay to that of a part-time position.

    Thank you for a well reasoned and well presented post.

    Like

    Comment by Matti Clark | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. In search of consistency…

    If in fact as you asset, our government is “of the people” what we have is what we have chosen?

    Again we differ on the applicability of the origional documents. The Federalist Papers are just not applicable in many ways in our contemporary times. Philosophies accepted…but various interpretations are replete with differing concepts.

    While your concept of personal accountability is incredibly accurate, your spurning of an amendment may be more idealistic than practical…but on the other hand constitutional amendments may be a tactic overcome by events too!

    Roy

    Like

    Comment by Roy Fouts | May 4, 2010 | Reply

    • The “Will of the People” is expressed in the Constitution which they ratified. This is the Fundamental Principle of Our Constitution. It is expressed in, e.g., the Preamble: “WE The People….” The People ordained & established a Constitution which granted to the federal government only limited & defined (“enumerated”) powers. One of the purposes of this strict limitation of the federal government’s powers was to protect the rights of individual citizens from the majority – i.e., the mob.

      On the other issue you raised: Are you saying that Liberty from a coercive civil government “goes out of style”? That we have properly moved on to a society where each man clamors to live at other peoples’ expense? “Take it from somebody else and give it to me”? That the productive are properly exploited to subsidize the unproductive? Is that not enslaving one segment of society (the productive) for the benefit of another (the unproductive)?

      Like

      Comment by Publius/Huldah | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  5. Good point, Son of Liberty!

    Like

    Comment by Publius/Huldah | April 9, 2010 | Reply

  6. You are absolutely correct that “formal” term limits are just a way for the people to shirk their responsibility to be informed and to exercise control over their elected officials through the ballot box.
    The greatest danger of term limits is that there are more unqualified people than qualified yet you will force the good out to protect yourself from the bad. We have the vote to do that.

    Like

    Comment by asonofliberty | April 9, 2010 | Reply


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