Monday, October 27, 2008

Term Limits

One of my closest friends asked me today what I think about political term limits.

I've heard many people laud the virtues of term limits as a mechanism to guarantee "new blood" from time to time, but never quite understood why this would be necessarily good. What if the bad blood is doing well?

As a Latin American, I primarily think that term limit have a different purpose - to ensure a constitutional mechanism to rid the country of a corrupt politician lest such leader may abuse the power of the government to systematically rig elections. That being the case, I feel that abandoning term limits would be a sign that a country's political system has matured sufficiently that the democratic process can be permitted to "float freely." In short, term limits are sometimes a temporary necessity en route to a long term goal.

So what about a country like the United States? Putting all electoral controversies of the past aside, I think most reasonable folks will agree that the democratic process here is more robust than in most countries, at the very least. In fact, the process was severely tested in 2000, and the fact that the country did not fall apart into disorder is a testimony to this stability.

So why do we need term limits? What is wrong with someone serving 3-4-5 terms if the electorate deems them to be doing a good job? I can understand the electorate having an appetite for new blood periodically; so be it. But let that be expressed through the electoral process rather than imposed by law. Such a big deal is made about "experience", particularly during this electoral season. Why have a system that forces such valuable experience to be lost after a maximum of 8 years of use?

Call me idealistic, but I have faith that a young leader may come someday with the intellect, endurance, and talent to govern well for multiple terms, and I don't think the electorate should be denied the opportunity to vote for this leader repeatedly.

If it ain't broke, why fix it?

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