OpEd Rogers: Term limits absolutely needed

There is enough historical evidence that America’s Founding Fathers strongly believed in a limited period one should serve in an elected office. 

Simply put, they did not want public officials to become so ingrained in an elective office, that they (the office holder) would become more concerned about their political survival, than about the survival of the people they were called to serve.

During the past few years, we Americans have witnessed an erosion of our rights, a disregard for the Constitution, the expansion of our government and abuses of power by elected officials on all levels of government.

In this 21st Century we are witnessing the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, municipal governments and even local school boards politicizing critical issues negatively impacting our quality of life.

These career politicians have replaced the rule of law with the rule of political power. Sadly, most career politicians have demonstrated that they are more concerned about serving their best interests than the best interests of the people.

I dare to ask millions of Americans, can you honestly name any career politician in Congress for example, if they are, since the day they were elected to office, wealthier than at any time before they entered office. I am sure we all know the answer. I can honestly say they left the American people poorer. 

When public life becomes a vocation for the political office holder, he or she becomes too secure and comfortable in their position. They become obsessed with the trappings of the office and develop a sense of entitlement, eventually leading to a total disregard for the will of the people.

At the birth of our nation, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and other American leaders believed that term limits would prevent political office holders from obsessing with the “trappings of the office.” They believed that term limits would strengthen our nation by limiting the time served by all elected political office holders.

I concur with our Founders and agree that a prolonged concentration of power is not good on any level of government, national, state, county, and local.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “To prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom from continuing too long in office, it is earnestly recommended that we set an obligation on the holder of that office to go out after a certain period.”

Connecticut’s Roger Sherman wrote, “Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their constituents.”

George Mason advised limits on the number of terms anyone can be elected to Congress, “Nothing can be as essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation (of its members).”

I second Mason’s statement and go further to suggest that all levels of government should have “periodic rotation.”

Citizen legislators no longer exist on many levels of government. What was once viewed as a privilege to serve has been transformed by far too many political office holders into a lifelong career that pays dividends and benefits that most Americans do not enjoy.

Limiting the terms of elected officials will produce citizen legislators of people who reflect the hardworking taxpayers in every home, on every street, and in every neighborhood of this nation.

Term-limited elected officials would be more in harmony with public opinion, thus limiting the power of not only the elected official, but the power of the special interests he or she becomes obligated to.

Career politicians are not compatible with the vision of good representative government. As time goes on the career politician gives birth to a divide that disconnects them from the people they should be representing.

I have no issue with elected officials who keep their commitment to the people on one level of government and upon the expiration of their terms decide to move onto another level. 

Experienced public officials are an asset to good government. However, once they have served two-terms in one office, they should move on.

It has been said that America begins in our homes and neighborhoods, in the living room and around the kitchen table. Now let me add, the American political system begins on our school boards and in our city halls where citizen legislators and not career politicians should be serving the people.

It was Lincoln who said of America, “No one is quite sure whether, in the absence of imaginative leadership, a government so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”

Of course, he was referring to our national government. But one can make that same argument for all levels of government as well.

Therefore, after being elected two terms to a municipal government office I walked away. 

Imaginative leadership would support term limits for the good of our nation, from the city halls across America to the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Steven L. Rogers is a former Nutley Commissioner, and retired U.S. Navy Commander, and Nutley Police Lt. He is presently President of Campaign4America.com.

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Steven L. Rogers | Nutley