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By Carl Parker
For the Record 

Good or Bad?


Last updated 8/2/2022 at 1:39pm

There has long been discussion about whether or not elected officials should have limits on how many years they should serve. The concept can be both good and bad.

Arguments for term limits include the fact that they would require a periodic turnover and would imbue new ideas in government. Another argument in favor is that when politicians hold office too long, they begin to adopt the feeling that they, not the people, actually own the office. In my opinion, the best argument in support of term limits is that toward the end of a term an officeholder knowing that his/her term is about to be statutorily done away with, he/she would concentrate more on legislation or other duties of the office rather than spend efforts aimed at being re-elected.

Former Congressman Jack Brooks once was quoted saying that as to congressmen, they should be elected young and should be kept in place a long time by the voters. The chief argument against term limits is that we already have an effective way to limit the terms of elected officials; it’s called the election process. While true that it is difficult to dislodge an officeholder who has held office for a long time, more than likely the problem is apathy of voters in failing to use their right to vote and gerrymandering.

A person elected to a local office such as city council, commissioners court or school board should find it rather easy to understand the process and be acquainted with all the vital issues facing that body and has worked okay.

State legislators and congressmen are very different from local offices, however. To be a good legislator I can site from my own experience that it takes about two to four years to truly get into step with the process and be an effective congressman, state senator or member of the state House of Representatives. These offices require knowledgeable people and if we force too many inexperienced members on Congress or state legislatures it weakens the body and increases the power of non-elected bureaucrats. We must keep in mind that bureaucrats do not have to stand for election nor are they selected by the people.

The place where term limits is certainly a step in the right direction is at the executive branch—presidents or governors. These should be term limited because they possess such power, such as power to appoint a vast number of department heads who can exercise discretionary powers over all of us. Totalitarian countries have shown us what can happen when an elected head of government is able to stay in office twenty or thirty years. Even George Washington declared as he left office that no president should elect to serve more than two terms.

Of course no action related to term limits for or against is the real underlying problem with what’s wrong with democracy in America today. It will only improve when we take the time or realize the importance of exercising our right to vote. In recent elections fewer than one-half of the voters cared enough to cast a ballot. You will find that less than one-fourth of Texans and/or Americans usually choose your elected officials.


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