America is more polarized than at any time in our history, with the exception of the Civil War era. Think about that for a moment! Our politics have divided families, with parents and children no longer speaking. Family gatherings are filled with nervous tension. Lifelong friendships have collapsed. Marriages have even ended due to this polarization. And, at work, people are afraid to mention politics for fear of being fired, or offending a coworker. A study for Colgate found that consumers even base their toothpaste purchases based on politics! Where will it all end?
In the midst of this cavernous political divide, what is the one item that Democrats, Republicans and Independents agree upon? The need for congressional term limits.
A recent poll conducted by Scott Rasmussen found that 82% of Americans favor term limits for Congress. Broken down by party lines, 87% of Republicans support congressional terms limits; 83% of Democrats also agree; and 78% of Independents concur that we need congressional term limits. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln couldn’t get these kinds of approval numbers!
Instead of congressional term limits, here’s what we presently have in Washington. Serving in Congress has become a lucrative lifelong job for many members.
One house member, elected in 1980, has served half of his life there. In the Senate, seven members, aged 80 or older, have been in that chamber for 30 years or longer. Harry Truman understood the problem and advocated for term limits, saying, “term limits would cure both senility and seniority — both terrible legislative diseases.”
Approval for Congress (according to a Gallup poll) has not even reached 30% in over a decade. We, as voters, don’t see Congress working for us. Instead, we see Congress as part of the dysfunction of our institutions.
So, what is the solution? Term limits for Congress.
Term limits would take power away from the Washington insiders and lobbyists and put it back to where it belongs — with the citizens of each state. And more importantly, it would lead to a Congress that is responsive to the issues facing us outside the Beltway.
Benjamin Franklin (who supported term limits) aptly said, “In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors ... For the former to return among the latter does not degrade but promote them.”
Of course, Congress will never vote to term-limit themselves, right? Although there are many members of Congress who favor congressional term limits — and have the integrity to back legislation to enact it — this measure faces incredible opposition from entrenched Washington insiders.
So, how do we make an end run around Congress? When enough states request a convention to add a term limits amendment to the Constitution, Congress is legally bound to comply.
This approach is not a hair-brained gimmick. It’s outlined in Article V of our Constitution. In fact, Dwight Eisenhower saw this method as the solution for term limits and said, “a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits could never achieve the blessing of Congress; it could be initiated only by the states.”
Fortunately, five states — Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Wisconsin, and West Virginia — have already asked for a national convention to amend the Constitution, limited to the subject of Congressional term limits. Kentucky should be next in line! Our General Assembly can pass a resolution calling for an Article V convention for congressional term limits only. A simple majority in the legislature is all that is required to take a stand on this issue.
Setting congressional term limits will be a gigantic step toward ending the political circus that polarizes our nation. It will restore balance in our electoral process. It will return power to the voters.
Now, more than ever before, we need congressional term limits. Let’s make sure the Bluegrass state is leading the way!
Rachel McCubbin is the Kentucky State Chair for U.S. Term Limits.