It is universally understood that from now on, whenever a new president is inaugurated, a good portion of his administration’s efforts, and actions, are focused on the date, four years hence, when he or she will again face the voters to seek a second term.
It is therefore reasonable to ask if whether we, as a nation would be better off were our presidents limited to serving just one term in office. We could also have a secondary debate as to whether or not the one term might be lengthened to six years, though I myself am not in favor of this.
The Founders initially imposed no Constitutional limit as to the number of terms. Washington, thanks to his innate wisdom, chose to retire after his second term, and thus probably spared the new nation from lapsing into some sort of old-world construct of a perpetual presidency. For nearly two centuries, presidents adhered to the self-imposed two-term limit, until FDR dared to break the taboo. The argument advanced was thay because of the great national emergency, WW II, it was imprudent to change horses midrace, the we needed FDR,a nd that he’d graciously heeded the nation’s call to serve. After his death, and after he’d won a FOURTH term, The Constitution was then amended to make the two-term limit the law of the land. Both parties were scared at how close we’d come to reshaping our republic, from the Founder’s vision, and also the awareness that had FDR died a few months early, Henry Wallace would have become President. The post war world might have looked very, very different had that come to pass.
Some will say that a one-term president automatically becomes a lame duck. True, but if that’s the case, then the same argument applies to any two term president afer his re-election. Others will suggest that the second term is a referendum on the policies of the first. True, but if that’s the rational, then it doesn’t hold for the second term. There is NO referendum then, as the candidate of the retiring president’s part, even if it’s the vice -president who has served for 8 years, attempts to define himself, and separate from his predecessor’s record.
The main case for a one( four year) term limit is that the president will hopefully focus on doing what is best for the nation, and not worry about being re-elected. If the policies are successful, then prospective candidates will support them during the term, and run on a platform that builds upon them. If the president is doing a lousy job, well, we won’t have to worry about him somehow managing to get re-elected.
It will also put much more meaning on the midterm Congressional elections, for a multitude of reasons. Again, a successful president will have his party’s full support two years after his election. A failing president will NOT have that same level of support..members of his party will not want to lash themselves to a sinking ship, they are more likely to start searching early on for a viable candidate.
When Obama was elected in 2008, with control of Congress, we were told that conservatism was dead, liberalism was ascendant, the Democrats could anticipate a decades-long control of the country. Obama’s policies have failed to win public support, and he and the Democrats were punished at the polls in 2010. In less than 2 years, everything has changed. The GOP will most likely take control of the Senate, and Obama’s electoral chances are at best, problematic.
But imagine if Obama couldn’t run in 2012. What would be happening today? Well, for starters, Obamacare would have been already repealed. No possible Democrat candidate would want to be tied to that overwhelmingly unpopular legislation. And if a very liberal Democrat candidate managed to capture the nomination, and push the same agenda, well, then, the Democrat party would be well on the way to permanent minority status.
Our nation was founded with the idea that our Constitution provides for three co-equal branches of government. The executive branch has demonstrated Orwell’s thesis that “some pigs are more equal than other pigs.” A one term limit would ultimately be of benefit to the nation. It would reign in executive power.
I don’t think there would be much opposition to the idea. After all, it affords the opportunity for TWO new people to seek the WH every four years. The number of governors, senators, and congressman, as well as others, who envision themselves in the Oval office surely numbers in the hundreds. So we’re giving them a much greater chance to reach their goal.
And after that, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that we also LIMIT the terms for members of Congress.
And all of that’s a good thing……