Howard Bashinski: Limits needed

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I think it is time to reconsider term limits for some elected officials, particularly our congressional representatives. I have heard and read the many objections to this idea, but we have reached a point where I don’t think any other approach can help rescue our government from control by special interests.

However, I propose term limits with a twist. I suggest a system in which a term limit could be bypassed for a particularly popular elected official. For example, what if someone could be re-elected only if they receive two-thirds of the vote? If your constituency feels that strongly, then perhaps you deserve re-election.

Here’s a specific proposal. U.S. senators get one six-year term, and representatives can serve two two-year terms using normal voting. After that, however, they need to be elected by a two-thirds super majority to serve any additional terms.

Now, I can hear all the objections! But the details of my proposal certainly are debatable. Perhaps a 60 percent majority should be enough for retention, for example. What I think is certain is that our senators and representatives are never going to vote for anything that comes close to regulating the influence of special-interest groups. There is too much money at stake, money that I believe already has corrupted our governmental system to the core. To be sure, term limits won’t eliminate the impact of special interests, but it sure would change the landscape. If nothing else, it would help give “we the people” another way to express our opinions and exercise control over the representative process.

Imagine what it would be like if our senators and representatives spent less time worrying about re-election. My proposal, which I call “flexible term limits,” wouldn’t eliminate the problem. I think it would change it for the better — at least for a while!

Howard Bashinski

Oak Creek

Comments

Pat West 1 year, 7 months ago

Howard, we don't need to limit terms, we need to eliminate corporate financing in our elections. "We the people" should not include corporations, or corporate sponsored special interests. By reforming election financing, we could elect representatives that do the will of the people, for the people, and not worry so much about how long they serve.

I believe if the founding fathers were alive to see what has happened with the system they established, they would be more concerned with the power that corporations have over our system than the current debate over guns control.

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Howard Bashinski 1 year, 7 months ago

Hi Pat,

I totally agree! My point, however, is that there never will be election finance reform because we are asking the "wolves to regulate the hen house!"

Instituting term limits wouldn't require Congress to do anything. Perhaps even the THREAT of term limits might push them to agree to some type of election financing reform!!

hb

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

You can put in 1 week term limits for everyone from the president right down to dog-catcher.

Ain't gonna change a thing.

You know how you can get all excited and jump around and shout and you can get your dog all fired up... make 'em "come to life"? Then you can calm down, quiet down and talk slowly and quietly and that same animal will calm down?

Same thing is true for politicians. They are a reflection of the electorate. And that FACT is what spells doom for the republic.

To borrow Shakespear: "The fault, dear [Howard], is not in our [politicians], but in our selves."

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Howard Bashinski 1 year, 7 months ago

Hello Mark,

I LOVE the Shakespeare quote, and agree completely. Whatever is going to happen, the electorate will be responsible...and that's scary!!

hb

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cindy constantine 1 year, 7 months ago

Right on, Howard!! Could not agree more--nothing worse than a lifetime politician like John and Harry and Nancy,etc. Burns me that they go into office being lower middle class and come out as part of the 1%--not to mention the lifetime of benefits they get at the taxpayers expense. Unlike what Mark says, they are totally out of touch with their electorate. If they spend a minimum of 10 years in the private sector, I might consider letting them run again if they have truly gotten a dose of reality and their constituents feel they would actually represent their interests.

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

their constituents DO feel they represent their interests, Cindy. How else would they get re-elected. The problem you folks are having is understanding and acknowledging that the majrity of voters

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

...that the majority of voters have realized that they can vote themselves largesse from the public coffers, and that the next stop in this little experiment called "democracy" is collapse over lose fiscal policy.

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 7 months ago

We already have a mechanism to limit the terms of political hacks. It's called get off your a$$ and vote. Less than half of us do. Those who don't deserve everything they get and less.

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Howard Bashinski 1 year, 7 months ago

Hi Brian,

Actually, more than half of us regularly vote in presidential elections, which is what I'm talking about. The lowest turnout in the past 50 years was 49.5% in 1996. It's the "midterm" elections where the turnout it so low. The highest in the past 50 years was 47.3% (1962) (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html)!

I agree that everyone should vote. I agree so strongly, in fact, that I think you should lose your citizenship if you fail to vote in any two consecutive federal elections! Citizenship is a responsibility, not a right. If you are irresponsible enuf not to participate in our representative process, then I don't think you have the right to call yourself and American!

hb

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Two reforms have been shown to have a real impact.

1) Prohibit gerrymandering by having districts drawn by a nonpartisan committee that are legally obligated to form compact districts following county and city lines as much as possible and being banned at looking at party voting history.

2) Have open primary voting so any voter can vote for anyone in the primary and then put the top two vote getters on the general election ballot. So in a district that leans strongly one way or the other doesn't just become a primary contest favoring the extremist, but a moderate can look for independent and even support from the other party.

California has implemented these changes and had more than normal competitive elections. They also had several races between two candidates of the same party and some long serving politicians lost to moderates. Such as Congressman Pete Stark who had been serving for 40 years and was arguably senile. He didn't have a close election for many years. And last year he won his party's primary, but the Democratic runnerup got more votes that the Republican candidate. So the general election had two Democrats and the moderate won with support of independents and Republicans.

In Colorado, this would tend to make Boulder and Denver have races between existing leftwing office holders and a moderate. Currently, the local Republican party in those areas is small that they nominate conservative candidates that have no chance. Likewise for Republicans in conservative dominated areas.

In our current electoral system with gerrymandered safe districts for politicians of both parties then many politicians are only threatened by a primary challenger. And party primary voters tend to be the most partisan. Thus, our system promotes highly partisan candidates that are beholden to the most partisan in their party. This can be fixed.

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Howard Bashinski 1 year, 7 months ago

Hi Scott,

Amen brother!! You definitely are preaching to the choir here. The problem is that, for the most part, the politicians like the electoral system just the way it is!! They like gerrymandering, and they like the fact that not everyone votes. It's like the fox guarding the hen house!! We will be going down in flames before either of your suggestions is implemented. Too rational!

I would like to add one more, however. What's with the Tuesday voting? And why does all voting have to happen on one day? There are a LOT of other possibilities. This is just another thing that reduces voter turnout, which I think politicians secretly like!

hb

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Howard,

California's new system was passed via referendum via the voters. Same thing could be done in Colorado.

For those that believe partisanship stops everything, note that a Democratic state passed a measure opposed by leading Democrats (usual suspects of Howard Berman and Nancy Pelosi).

And showing how useless those fossils are, the first elections in Nov 2012 held under those rules turned out great for California Democrats with several unexpected congressional victories and veto proof majorities in the state senate and state house.

In two years if the Republicans have better candidates then they should retake some seats.

http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/California-reforms-produce-surprises-4018597.php

The Nov 2012 election caused 4 House seats to change parties. That is a revolution for incumbents after only 1 changed in the previous 10 years.

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

Forget the background checks. Let's have polygraph tests and the "wiz quiz" for anyone in or seeking public office and anyone on the dole.

Keep dreaming. That ain't gonna happen either.

It's "Game Over" for this republic, folks. The sooner you come to grips with that, the sooner you can take appropriate measures.

Keep dreaming about "what-if's" ...?? wasting time you do not have.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 7 months ago

One term limit for house and senate. Can not be in both. One term limit for president. No retirement benefits or healthcare for any of them. Revoke all pensions and healthcare for retired politicians. They stole enough while in office to take care of themselves. Same ideas all the way down to the local level. Would make for a lot less lawyers wanting to be politicians.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

The most basic problem with term limits is that it is preventing the voters from reelecting popular office holders. So then the term limited popular person publicly supports a less popular successor and we end up with even weaker elected officials.

And other schemes such as a knowledge test would probably have disqualified extremely successful candidates such as Reagan (who was generally good at picking people to get things done).

I think the best solution is to trust the voter to elect the person they prefer, but to reform the system so the politicians cannot limit voter's choice to those already in power.

I think it is usually best to look for a solution that is working somewhere else and copy it. It is almost funny how effective California's reforms have been (4 House seats changed party hands in Nov 2012 after only 1 in the previous 10 years) and how little it is mentioned by politicians elsewhere.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 7 months ago

Just what we need. "Popular" politicians in office. That is what got us in this pile of manure. More "popular" politicians lining their pockets until the entire country collapses. What we need are some God-Fearing politicians with some morals and values. If we only let them stay in office one term, maybe we could get these people.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

What leftie wants Obama to run again?

After her time as Secretary of State where she was able to show how she could do the job without being overshadowed by Bill, the Left wants Hillary. She would seem to have the sort of fierce to deal with the Right.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 7 months ago

Obama did not choose Hillary as a running mate because he knew he would not survive his first term with her as VP. Instead he chose the village idiot Biden because he knew any sane person would prefer Obama over Biden. When Hilary is elected in 2016 as I fully expect, we will be longing for the "good old days" of Obama.

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