Presidential Term Limits? Meh.

That this post is even necessary is mildly troubling. Yes, it’s true. Congressman Serrano of New York’s 15th district wasted no time introducing a bill to repeal the twenty second amendement. The bill reads: 

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification.

     

The twenty-second amendment, the one that established term limits on the office of the presidency was ratified in February of 1951. It was customary for presidents to serve two terms before retiring from the Executive.  The two term practice started with George Washington, who reluctantly ran for a second term and outright refused to run for a third.

Following the death of FDR, who was in his fourth presidential term, Congress introduced the twenty-second amendment. Almost four years later, it was ratified and is now part of our great Constitution.

The term limit argument will always be part of our Constitutional discussion. One side maintains term limits are anti-democratic and that it’s for the people, not a document, to determine the duration of public service. The other contingent sees term limits as a check on unmitigated power and control. 

Recently freed from the constraints of monarchical rule, our founders were wary of any practice that would enable political entrenchment. Jefferson often made the case for set terms of office as opposed to lifetime appointments. “Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens,” George Mason posited. Politicians have little fear even now of their votes and deeds affecting their political futures.  If we remove the one power we have over them; the power to vote them out, can you even imagine what they’ll attempt? 

Not being deterred by the will of the people, Rep. Serrano will likely continue to introduce a bill to repeal the twenty-second amendment just as he’s done at the beginning of every session since 1997.  Fortunately, with the current make up of the House, it has very little chance of making it even to committee. 

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