Politicians should move up or get out of the way
To groans and rolls of their eyes, I often joke with my family that "The toughest three years of my life was fifth grade." Unfortunately, many of our country’s politicians are allowed to follow the same route. When their term is done, they stand before us and excitedly proclaim – "I’m done! Please send me back so I can do it again!" Despite a clear Ladder of Success, many wallow on the same rung, term after term, and expect applause for doing so.
It is time that we insist that our politicians excel and move up or get out of the way. There is a clear hierarchy in the political world – a ladder to the top – and we should demand that our politicians try to climb it. Although one doesn’t have to start at the bottom rung, and you’re free to attempt to skip steps, the hierarchy of our government is generally:
School Board, City/County Planning Committees, Small City Councils, Township Boards.
County Board Member, Large City Council Member
Mayor, County Board Chair
Cabinet Level Officer of Federal Government
President of the United States
As a politician tries to move up this ladder, the difficulty in getting elected is greatly increased and the responsibility and prestige of holding the position is enhanced. Staying on the same rung of the ladder, term after term, is much too easy. One doesn’t generally face strong opposition from within your own party and, when facing opponents from other parties, you generally have clear advantages in name recognition and funding. Being reelected to the same position, much like repeating the same grade in school, is not really a pat on the back for a good job but rather an admonition to see if you can do better this time.
I believe that a strong majority of people want term limits for state and federal office holders – unfortunately, nearly everybody holds an exception for "their" returning candidate. Trust me, "our" beloved serial repeating candidates are another person’s head-shaker. Eighty-year-old Charlie Rangel just handily won his party’s nomination to seek his 21st term as a U.S. Representative – despite a looming House ethics trial regarding his recent behavior. The late Strom Thurmond was a U.S. senator for 47 years. Ted Kennedy held his seat for nearly as long. Ted Stevens was a U.S. senator for 40 years.
Eighty-four-year-old John Dingle is still a U.S. Rep – holding that office for 54 years and counting. The names on the lists of longest serving representatives and senators is long and recognizable but, for the most part, they are known more for their name recognition than for their accomplishments; more for the quantity of their tenure than for the quality of their service.
It’s time we ask more from our elected officials. If they are as great as they want us to believe they are, let’s move them up the ladder. Give them more responsibility and limelight. It is truly in our best interest to let the cream rise to the top. Our best and brightest should shoulder the load. In nearly every aspect of life outside of politics, we reward those who succeed with more power and pay. Those who refuse to attempt to take promotions are often looked at warily. Our politicians should play on this same field.
Since it is apparent that they do not have the good sense to write laws that limit their time in office, it is time that we DEMAND that our elected officials honor a self-imposed term limit vow. No elected official should hold the same office for more than TWO uninterrupted consecutive terms. The length of each term is immaterial – two tries at it and you either attempt to move up to a higher office, or go back to the private sector and let another person try. It is the rare elected official that impresses so much that most couldn’t think of a dozen people that they know could do at least as good of a job. Let’s promote the "rare" ones and allow the others to bring their talents to the plate.
Many politicians, and their minions, will argue that forcing them to move on or move out of the way would somehow damage how our country is run. Nothing could be further from the truth. Term limits (by law or by pledge) will provide a better class of elected officials. Instead of becoming so entrenched, they will be forced to become more effective. Great changeover will clear the deadwood and new ideas will be allowed to sprout. Capitals across the country and in D.C. will become more alive instead of the partisan den of tired ideas that they presently are.
Ask your candidates if they will accept a two-term-limit. If they won’t, let them know that they won’t get your consideration for a vote. We need to reward excellence over familiarity. Considering the condition we’re presently in, we really have nothing to lose.