Politicians will find new ways to be hacks

Tim Lynch has an interesting position on term limits, reinforced by the news that Tom DeLay considers himself a Virginian now that he’s “retired”.

One of the best arguments for terms limits is that we have reached the point where members of Congress are no longer “representatives” of their districts. The latest evidence of that came in this morning’s newspaper, which says Tom Delay will be on a Texas ballot in an upcoming election even though he has now declared himself to be a Virginian. …

Mr. Lynch concludes that term limits are necessary to prevent the next generation from assuming “that this is all perfectly normal and appropriate.” I think the current generation accepts that. I don’t, however, think that calls for term limits.

We have the power to vote. We know what our representatives are doing, especially now with the pervasive access to information. We possess the power to demand local access and accountability within our individual districts. Yet, we rarely choose to exercise that power. Some polls suggest we might collectively seek change this year, but I’m not convinced. It’s too easy to see that (R) or (D) on the ballot and punch the corresponding button because that’s what we always do. The name almost doesn’t matter. Term limits won’t fix partisanship.

Abuse by our representatives is inevitable, but we have the power to stop it. It is our responsibility to do so. The founders designed our Constitution to protect us from the coercive power of government without providing for explicit term limits. As an extension of our now-accepted idea that unlimited presidential terms is bad, I might entertain term limits for Congress. But that’s a different approach. Using the “Tom DeLay is a Virginian” argument for term limits seems to offer little more than protecting us from ourselves.