In the year 1900, the median age of Americans at the age of death was 49 years old. In the year 2018, that figure had risen to above age 80.
As our life spans increase, no one thinks beans about dementia-free septuagenarians running for president, and soon enough, an octogenarian, someone in his or her 80s, will run for president. That brings us to the issue of term limits. When the Founding Fathers first drafted the Constitution setting out the ground rules as to who could be a senator or congressional representative, they couldn’t easily have foreseen the advanced life spans to which we have aspired.
Yes, Ben Franklin lived to be 84 years old, Thomas Jefferson 83, James Madison 85, and John Adams 90. However, they were anomalies for their era. George Washington only made it to 67. As late as 1970, life expectancy in the U.S. hovered at a fraction above age 70.
Today, we’re faced with the reality that congressional representatives and senators, elected in their 30s or 40s can end up serving for 30 to 40 years or more. We have a vile and vindictive Nancy Pelosi, 81 next week, Patrick Leahy, approaching 81, and Dianne Feinstein, 87, all who should have been unelected decades ago.
Some Republicans have served long as well; Chuck Grassley, 87, and Richard Shelby, 86, come to mind. In any case, serving more than 30 years in the Senate, indeed more than 24 years, and, it could be argued, more than 18 years, is probably way too much. The Founding Fathers did not envision congressional representation as a career, let alone, a lifetime avocation.
Seven-year senator Ted Kennedy, in a jurisdiction outside of Massachusetts, could have been convicted for manslaughter or at least leaving the scene of an accident and lying to county and city officials regarding the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Yet, he served another 40 years in the Senate, for a total of 47 years.
A Golden Chance Blown
One absolutely knows that a push for term limits is not going to happen under Biden, or whoever is running the show from the White House, and his cronies in the Senate and House of Representatives. Unfortunately, when the Trump administration had a GOP majority in the House and the Senate, it did not push for term limits. That would have been the most opportune time.
If a push for term limits were to magically happen, the first order of business would be to determine an appropriate term length for senators and representatives. I suggest three terms in the Senate, totaling 18 years. I suggest six terms in the house totaling 12 years. Why the disparity? Senators, being lesser in number in most states, don’t run as often and need to generate influence during their tenure. Moreover, continuity of leadership seems vital in the Senate.
In the House, congressional representatives are virtually running for office perpetually, so six elections is plenty. A limit of 12 years would eliminate maniacal leaders (hint: Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, Eric Swalwell) from rising to the top and staying put decades past the time that they are already harming America.
Not on Our Watch
William F. Buckley once said something along the lines of, “I would sooner be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 members of the faculty of Harvard.” As corollary, I personally would sooner be governed by the first 2,000 names in any swing state city phone directory than by the 117th Congress.
An underlying problem with this or any Congress ever supporting a term limits amendment is that whoever is in power at the time likely doesn’t want this amendment drive to proceed. For the good of the country, however, some patriots might proceed, recognizing that the strength of America, far into the future, is more important than their particular tenure.
Thankfully, a group called U.S. Term Limits is seeking to initiate a convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to propose a term limits amendment for the U.S. House and Senate. Perhaps a Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, or Marsha Blackburn would be vocal proponents, especially if they knew that a sound approach to governing was in place.