Civic Responsibility, Politics

What’s Your Opinion On Limiting Terms?

Click to see original imageIf you read the Herald comics (and who doesn’t?) you probably observed an interesting bit of political philosophy contained in a recent Sunday installment of ”Berry’s World” by Jim Berry.

The script for half a dozen panels portraying an interview with a “Congressman Rodomontade” read as follows:

“Congressman Rodomontade, what is your philosophy about how our democracy works?” The “congressman” responded: “When I first came to Congress, I saw myself as a humble representative! I came to Washington to SERVE my constituents. Right away everybody treated me with great RESPECT and deference. It was not difficult to become accustomed to the heady feeling of being IMPORTANT. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I am really a GREAT MAN. And that is why I know what is better for the voters than THEY do!”

The philosophy of the “congressman” may or may not mirror true-to-life situations you’ve observed. It does call to mind an oft-expressed statement that new lawmakers go to Washington imbued with cutting taxes, cutting red tape. retiring the national debt, etc. Only to fall into the “Washington club” pattern after a few terms.

But that isn’t rule-of-thumb by any means. In Utah and elsewhere we can point with pride to many senators and congressmen who have held to their promises and stood up for what they believe through the years.

A well-known Provo citizen, John H. Zenger, cited “Congressman Rodomontade” philosophy in a letter directed to a state paper urging that the number of terms in office be limited. The theory that solons grow more distant from the voters after long periods in service undoubtedly is true in many cases – but again, it isn’t necessarily so.

Mr. Zenger wondered “if it isn’t about time the system be changed to limit the terms to one or two, just as the office of President is now limited to two.” (In a previous letter he’d suggested increasing congressmen’s terms to four years.) He also advocated considering a requirement that candidates for Congress must have served in a state legislature. This, he said, would counter the contention that a congressman spends his first term learning the job, and would assure some knowledge of the legislative processes and issues.

There is food for thought in these suggestions. Without taking a position one way or another on the proposals at this time, we’d like to see some public input and discussion on them.