A friend of mine got me thinking about the U.S. presidency, more specifically the term limits that come coupled with the office. It sounds great if you just take the concept at face value; we don’t want someone to maintain the position of President of the United States for too long so we give them a 2 term limit. Or at least the 22nd Amendment does. So why was the amendment needed in the first place?
Well if you ask me, it wasn’t. We all know that FDR is the only president to serve more than two terms. Only a handful of other presidents have thought to get elected to a third term (Grant, Cleveland, T. Roosevelt, and Wilson). Over the course of 225 years and 44 presidents, it hasn’t posed much of a problem. In fact, could the lifting of term limit restrictions on the office of the president be exactly what the country ordered?
Obama is not the only person I am talking about, he just happens to be in office now and I had never considered the thought prior to a week ago. You run for office on dreams and promises. What you’ve dreamt up for the future of this great country and the promise of actions that will execute your 8 year plan for success. Your first run is incentive based and lined with boundless opportunity. During your second run you still have that glimmer in the eye and a perceived purposeful resolve. Then you get elected to your second term in office and your actions are no longer incentive based. You don’t have to fight for your job or maintain a glowing image because there is no future for you in the high office you hold. It’s only natural for someone to take their foot off the gas, much like a soldier at war that is going home in 2 weeks. Perhaps you drop back a bit. Maybe you don’t throw yourself in the face of danger and instead, opt to standby cloaked in stoicism. Not so bad, but not so fantastic either. You have an agenda and now that there is no fear of botching an election and becoming a proverbial loser, whatever you personally want to do becomes what happens regardless of the best interests of the country. Bipartisan effort doesn’t mean as much, and if you go far left or far right (whichever you may be) you don’t risk losing anything as long as you don’t do something outlandish that will get you impeached.
But what if that wasn’t the case. What if come year 6, you had to consider your public future as president. What if there existed no red line that you cross then no longer have to worry about an election. Do you try harder? Are you more concerned about keeping the middle thinking portion of the country happy? It’s a big portion. Wouldn’t you be more objective and keep your fire fueled with the same intensity and willingness that landed you in office? I am thinking that might be the case. We are not a country that just sits on its ass and does nothing. Well OK we are, but we have the internets and TVs with 500 channels. This enables us to know more and make our own decisions (if we aren’t being blindly swayed by someone else’s opinion) so the chances of a tyrant getting into office and remaining there indefinitely are slim to none. If someone does remain in office for 3 or possibly 4 terms, you have to reckon they deserve it. You simply can’t be mediocre and march on to a third term. As a country we get fed up with anything and everything. There is no real threat of an office dominance that can be likened to dictatorships or a monarchy. It’s virtually impossible. We vote people out of office, it’s what we do. The average age of a US President entering office is 55 and while I don’t disagree with the current age minimum of 35, I wouldn’t be opposed to raising that minimum to 45 years of age. (I originally had my facts mixed up) A decade of decision making and life experience makes a huge difference. This may raise the average age of incoming presidents and lessen the already rare possibility of a 20 year presidency. Again, in the rare instance that it happens, you have to believe that the person deserves it. Right now the American public thinks 4 years is not enough to do anything, which pretty much mandates a second term. 8 years is a good duration of time to gauge results and decide if a person is heading the country in a certain direction.
This could very well be one of the most asinine things I have ever tried to explain, but for me what it boils down to is incentive. Humans react well to incentive; it’s a driving force that can move mountains. When it’s gone we don’t reach further or try harder, quite the opposite actually and it’s not anyone’s fault… it’s just human nature. I’m eager to hear other people’s opinion about this, especially people that disagree 100%. I am fully aware of the downside and dangers of not having term limits. I think they should exist, just in different areas of congress. That actually leads me to another crackpot theory that we need limits on the terms of congressman and as an alternate process, let them elect the president. We don’t have to work with the president, they do. We restrict Congress’s powers and keep the people happy by increasing the frequency of elections for the senate, and then put some kind of restriction on consecutive terms. You can be a career politician, but not in a row. Keeping Congress on a tighter leash might keep them honest and as a result, make them the most capable of electing a president they are willing to work with and support.
I am going to try and not go on about politics for at least 6 months. Now that I’ve lost your attention, here is your reward: