Extolling his anti-establishment credentials on Tuesday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced his intent to propose a Constitutional amendment to enact term limits for members of Congress.
“If I’m elected president I will push for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress,” Trump told supporters at a Colorado Springs, Colorado, rally. “Decades of failure in Washington and decades of special-interest dealing must and will come to an end. Not only will it end our government corruption, but we will end the economic stagnation that we’re in right now — no growth,”
Trump’s proposal to codify term limits follows his Monday announcement in Green Bay, Wis., of a multifaceted ethics plan to sharply curtail the influence of former government officials, many of whom leave government service and accept positions in Washington lobbying forms where they continue to control the levers of power over both the White House and Congress.
Included in Trump’s sweeping manifesto to curb the leverage maintained by lobbying firms are a five-year ban on members of Congress and executive branch officials from accepting positions at lobbying firms, prohibiting former executive branch officials from lobbying for foreign governments and banning lobbyists representing foreign governments from raising money for U.S. elections.
Similarly, Trump promoted closing a loophole which allows former government officials who engage in lobbying activities but identify themselves as other than a lobbyist.
While Mr. Trump’s sudden affection with an all-the-rage political subject long adored by conservatives is shrewd politics, his prescription for the political decadence for which he endeavors to remedy is deeply misguided.
Maddened over their helplessness to the electorate returning Franklin Roosevelt to the White House an unprecedented four times, conservatives rashly, hastily and for overly-ideological reasons pushed through Congress the Twenty-Second Amendment to limit presidential terms.
Decades worth of reflection and rue has taught those on the vanguard of the term-limit movement little: The most powerful mechanism to remove sanctimonious officeholders lie not with the elected official or legislation, but with the voter.
Rare visionaries whose political ingenuity was aroused by fear over tyrannical rule from abroad and revolution at home, the Founding Fathers expressly composed the Constitution to bequeath a remarkable volume of authority in the hands of the body politic.
Every two and six years, members of Congress must justify their return to Washington; a cross section of these elected legislators face the wrath of the voters and are not returned to the comfortable surroundings on Capitol Hill.
The main difficulty with Trump’s resolution with what he finds wrong with Washington is his quarry remains only officeholders. A significant portion of what makes Washington acutely dysfunctional and a disservice to citizens is the number of legislative aides, consultants and lobbyists who operate under the veneer of political officeholders.
This critical mass of influential support are every bit as much the source of Washington’s sickness as Trump’s target in elected leaders. Aides and consultants are every bit as susceptible to the lure from lobbying firms as elected officials after their retirement or defeat at the hands of voters and both groups seek to profit from their former positions in the corridors of power in Congress.
Moreover, once out of office, these ex-officeholders, former legislative aides and consultants are as much or more influential once their term of service or employment expires.
Despite Mr. Trump’s inspired plan to curtail the impact this elite group exercises over Washington, excluding former aides and consultants from accepting positions with influence-peddling firms and allowing lobbying firms to muddle along free of restriction or outright dismantlement is bad policy.
The removal of those who exercise power recklessly should remain in the hands of the voter. To remove this authority from the electorate would mean we ignored the Founding Fathers’ wisdom and is an insult to democracy.
[Washington Post] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy NBC News]