Friday, February 21, 2014

The limitation of term limits

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that members of the Reno City Council who have served 12 years cannot run for mayor due to term limits. This immediately reshaped next year's race, ending the hopes of the top two frontrunners (and several others in the hunt) and giving a big assist to many other hopefuls, including the man who brought the case.

Personally, I'm against term limits across the board. They're supposed to be a check against undue political influence, but they're political themselves. For all the arguments for term limits, there are equal and unsavory opposite arguments.

Term limits might prevent the phantom threat of the evil "career politician," but they also prevent the electorate from keeping competent and qualified candidates in office. And in places where term limits merely place limits on consecutive terms, a lot of ridiculous, pointless gymnastics can occur.

Even with term limits, has corruption stopped? No, it hasn't. I'm not sure it's even been reduced, because influence isn't necessarily a function of tenure. If we're replacing "career politicians" with upstarts from the farm teams of various lobbies, isn't that lateral change at best? 

The best check on politicians is an active and engaged electorate. Big stretch, I know. But that's the way it's supposed to be. Keep in the good, vote out the bad. Yes, money plays a part, but we're not yet at a point where candidates can outright buy a seat. Term limits plays into the same sense of citizen powerlessness that big money does — the idea that a citizen's vote is worth less than it actually is. In reality, it still is — and should be — the ultimate authority in determining who is in office.

We shouldn't have term limits; the limits should lie with us.

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