Term Limits In US Government Essay Research

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Term Limits In U.S. Government Essay, Research Paper Mark P. Petracca’s idea that “government should be kept as near to the people as possible chiefly through frequent elections and rotation-in-office” is quite common in early republican thought and generally agreed upon by the America’s revolutionary thinkers. Although the debate over limiting legislative terms dates back to the beginnings of political science, it was not until the 1990’s that the doctrine began to be taken seriously when voters started to approve term limit initiatives (Sinclair 203). Petracca’s statement captures a significant aspect of the democratic process- that every citizen retains the privilege to participate in the political system, yet his inclusion of “rotation-in-office” can both

support and hinder such a privilege. This will be shown by discussing the views of America’s founders, term limits legislation in Washington State, California, and Oklahoma, political mobilization of national groups, and the opinions of congressmen concerning the matter. Term limitation is not a strictly modern topic. Its roots date back to the creation of Republican thought and democratic theory of ancient Greece and Rome, and also aroused debates amongst the founding fathers of the United States (Sinclair 14). For the most part, the Antifederalists supported rotation-in-office because they feared its elimination, paired with the extensive powers given to Congress by the Constitution, would make the “federal rulers …masters, not servants.” On the other hand, the

Federalists felt that the separation of powers in the federalist system served as a viable check on ambition and tyrannical government; therefore, rotation seemed unnecessary and was not mentioned in the Constitution (Peek 97). Melancton Smith, of New York, is considered the Antifederalist’s most well-spoken and conscious supporter of rotation-in-office. In a speech given in June of 1788 which called for a constitutional amendment to solve the “evil” of the proposed Senate, Smith endorsed the point that rotation-in-office could be used as a check on the abuse of power and tyranny by proposing, rotation …as the best possible mode of affecting a remedy. The amendment will not only have the tendency to defeat any plots, which may be formed against liberty and the authority

of the state governments, but will be the best means to extinguish the factions which often prevail, and which are sometimes fatal in legislative bodies (Foley 23).” New York’s “Brutus” also advocated rotation in the Senate, but he did so on grounds that more people would be given an opportunity to serve their government instead of a select few with lifetime membership. He felt that in addition to bringing a greater number of citizens forward to serve their country, it would force those who had served to return to their respective states and become more informed of the condition and politics of their constituencies (Foley 25). Both Smith and Brutus agreed that once an individual was elected to office his removal would be difficult, except in the rare occurrence that his

outright misconduct would constitute grounds for dismissal. Sharing the Antifederalist doctrine of the dangers of permanent government, Brutus suggested that, “it would be wise to determine that a senator should not be eligible after he had served for the period assigned by the constitution for a certain number of years (Foley 26).” Although John Adams was a devout Federalist, he maintained that rotation, as well as frequent elections, would be necessary in order to keep government as near to the people as possible. Adams expressed these two beliefs in a speech given just before the American Revolution in which he proposed holding annual elections of representatives (Peek 101). He also compared men in a society with rotation-in-office to bubbles on the sea which