On Thursday I wrote that Senator McCain appeared to be completely confused as to what he was doing in the middle of a committee hearing about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey; and what, if anything, that had to do with the current and ongoing investigation into Russian meddling into the election broadly, and the potential communications between Trump, his team, and the Russian government specifically.
To be very polite about the matter, Senator McCain, whom I have had a deep respect for in the past, appeared to be convinced that Hillary Clinton attempted to utilize Russian propaganda, weaponized for an American market in a psyops campaign in a bid to tank her own bid for the White House, and install Donald Trump as the president so that he might be more sympathetic to the Russian interests than he would the American interests because … I don’t know, … no one knows. McCain himself doesn’t even seem to be aware that his string of disjointed phrases might have hurt his defensive stance of perpetual deep concern.
(Seriously, his statements read like poorly written dialogue for the least useful NPC in a video game, ever. Every time you hit A, he just says, “I am deeply concerned,” “This is troubling,” or “I don’t know what to make of this.” Even Zelda II‘s most well known NPC told you up front that he was “Error.”)
But from all this, the ghost of the Congressional Term Limit has been raised again. I have detailed in other forums in the past why I am opposed to legislative term limits, but I will do so again.
Simply put, they are less democratic than you might think. Removing the link between a representative and his/her constituency as it relates to accountability does not make them more accountable, but makes them less accountable. By limiting the ways that a representative can be held accountable to the voters, you can only assure yourself that the representative will have less and less to do with the voters. Like it or not, the best way to keep an elected official honest is to allow them a reelection. If you don’t like what they are doing, vote them out. If you guarantee them that no matter what they do, they won’t face any real consequence, i.e. a reelection, you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t listen to you in the first place.
Look at all the places with legislative term limits. They are some of the least democratic governments on the face of the planet. Mexico, for instance, originally built it’s government on term limits. They were one of the most corrupt governments in the history of western democracy. They have, relatively recently, made great strides in correcting that error … 100 years after they made that first mistake. Because that’s how long it took for people to grow tired of corrupt, unresponsive government, and to figure out how to do something about it. Prior to their new order, the people they elected each time ran on promises of change and accountability. And then they just did what they wanted. These people then were loyal to the party, not the constituents.
And part of that party loyalty was due to the fact that the only way they could remain in politics as a career, was through subservience to the party leaders. They were out of office in the legislature after one term, so they didn’t see much need to be responsive to their districts. They served the party leaders, and only the party leaders, because that’s where the rewards came from. Advancement into other offices, or securing appointment positions, was all done by being loyal to the party boss.
Another reason I disfavor term limits is that in every legislative session you end up with more and more people who don’t know how to do their job, to write and pass legislation. They don’t know how to be diplomats with each other. They don’t know anything (and likely don’t care), other than that in a short amount of time, they will be done with this exercise and if they were loyal, the party will move them up. Find a political system with legislative term limits, where the electorate isn’t homogeneous, that hasn’t devolved into a corrupt, unresponsive single party rule…(Bonus, find one that is happy with their government).
In a system as that, there is no need for an elected representative to, once they gain office, remain loyal to the group that sent them there. Yes, you can argue, that nothing here is doing so right now. But you might be wrong. You probably are wrong. Most of the people, if polling is to be believed, that are opposed to the agenda advanced by Senators like McCain, aren’t voting. And guess what? He knows that. And so does every other senator or representative.
You want to change the Congress? Vote in the congressional elections.
Senator McCain’s actions Thursday did a long way toward making me believe that there should be limits in Congress. But not term limits. Age limits.
Senator McCain is 80 years old. I have a lot of respect for him. He went through an unspeakable hell in Vietnam. He has served his country more than admirably as an elected servant since then. I, unlike the president, will never suggest otherwise.
But, I do suggest that it is time for him to retire. I can think of almost no person who has earned a public pension the way he has. But, he is no longer of sound mind. It gives me pause to think that, in an alternate universe, he would’ve finished his term in the White House just a mere six months ago. He could not string together a sentence on Thursday, regardless of his intentions. I suspect that he tried to corner Comey. I think that is less admirable, given the partisan implications. But, I think it is less worrisome, that a) he tried to do so, and more worrisome that b) he no longer has the mental fortitude to pull it off.
Which, leads me back to the point. I don’t believe that term limits are the answer for this kind of corruption, or, at best, inadequacy. The best thing to do is to enact an age limit. There is an age requirement to even serve in the Senate. There is an age requirement to serve in any of the Constitutionally Ordained Offices; the three branches. Perhaps it is time to enact a ceiling, as well as a floor. If you are going to hit 80, hell, even 70, in the middle of your term; if you are at risk of senility while serving, you should not even be allowed to run.
I want lifetime servants. I do. I want people who feel they are called, and will fight to do what they think is right. I want people who understand the intricacies; I want experienced legislators more than I want excuses for an unpopular party to hold on to power they no longer deserve. I want that more than anything else, as it relates to this. But I also want people who can stay awake for 2 hours and form a coherent question.
I almost voted for McCain in 2008. Until he picked Palin.
But, McCain’s question, all five minutes of the one question, make Palin look like a Rhodes Scholar. It’s time for him to step down. And, if McCain himself cannot respect the institution and lead a new example, then I am prepared to call for the imposition of a rule.
No to term limits; but yes, to an age limit.
Photo credit Reuters/Mike Segar