Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Go for it, Mike

Michael Bloomberg apparently wants to run for a third term as Mayor of New York.

Good for him. I support that. So far I've been mostly impressed with Bloomberg. If I were still living in NY, I would consider voting for him (depending on the opposition, obviously).

My position on term limits is simple: I think term limits are one of the worst ideas in the history of American democracy.

I have reasons both practical and principled for opposing term limits. Practically, I think it's a good thing for politicians to develop expertise on a particular topic, in a certain field, and shepherd projects that take a long time.

What I find bizarre about term limits is that they contradict received wisdom that applies to just about every other area of human endeavor. In every other occupation, we consider longevity and experience a sign of wisdom and commitment. In other areas of life, a long-term relationship between two people is usually considered healthy. My paternal grandparents were married for 67 years. That's a good thing. They were in love the entire time; they got engaged six weeks after they met, and died within four months of each other.

But if a politician wants to stay in the same relationship with a certain set of constituents for as long as possible, term limits argue against that. Imagine if athletes had an expiration date with their teams. What if Brett Farve had been forced to be traded from the Packers after, say, 5 years? That would be ridiculous.

What if we applied this logic in our personal lives? What if we told people they had to change their relationships with their professionals after a certain time? "I'm sorry, Mrs. Smith, but you've been seeing your dentist, Dr. Jones, for 10 years, and that's the end of your term with her. We don't care if you and your husband and the rest of your family think she's a great dentist. Time to go."

My principled reason is simple and twofold: I think term limits are unconstitutional, and I think they violate a sacred principle of American democracy. I think there should be just three limits on eligibility for office: age, residency, and citizenship.

But the most egregiously wrong thing about term limits for me is that it violates my right to choose my elected representative, and that is at the core of American democracy. It degrades the right to vote if I can vote for anybody except the one person I really want to vote for. If I want to vote for the same person for 30 years straight, I should be able to do that, with only the restrictions I listed above.

So I strongly support Bloomberg's decision (as soon as it becomes public). Toss term limits. Restore a basic principle of American democracy.

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