It hit us like a freight train when U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop asserted during his recent re-election bid that southwest Georgia couldn’t afford to be represented by a rookie congressman. It would take years and years, Bishop said, for a newcomer to build the necessary clout to bring the bacon home to Columbus, Albany, Thomasville and all points in between, like Bishop does. To heck with doing the right thing; rather, a significant barometer of a representative’s success, Bishop says, is maximizing federal spending within the geographic confines of a congressional district.
For us, it was an epiphany: If they’re saying this in Congress, the system truly is broken. And if they are saying it this boldly and this publicly, they’re shameless, to boot. Rather than fix a system that bankrupts our children’s and grandchildren’s government for the sake of re-electing incumbents, our representative and his colleagues are deliberately perpetuating it to the point that it’s part of their re-election platform.
Elected officials should be in the business of passing good laws, repealing bad laws, following the rules, and ensuring that our money is spent as efficiently as possible. There’s little in Bishop’s portfolio and that of nearly all of Albany’s elected officials from city hall to Capitol Hill – that indicates that good governance is actually vital to them. We’re being defrauded, not represented.
Sadly, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth’s honest assessment of the state of government in America hits the nail on the head. “I have never seen more senators express discontent with their jobs. I think the major cause is that, deep down in our hearts, we have been accomplices to doing something terrible and unforgivable to this wonderful country … we know that we have bankrupted America and that we have given our children a legacy of bankruptcy. … We have defrauded our country to get ourselves elected,” said Danforth, a Missouri Republican who voluntarily left office after three terms.
James Fennimore Cooper, the novelist, described the common view that “contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed.” Still, there was a time when honor prevailed in rotation of service. For example, starting with George Washington, every re-elected president until Franklin Delano Roosevelt voluntarily quit after two terms. A sign of the times occurred when the 22nd Amendment of 1951 limited presidents to serving two terms.
Rotation in office – referred to nowadays as term limits — dates back to ancient times. More recently, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were big fans of limiting tenure, as Jefferson said, “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress …” Said George Mason, who along with Jefferson were troubled by the absence of term limits for the Senate and presidency in the Constitution: Nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation.”
To bring our point home, we ask: When presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue left office, was there a hue and cry at any level regretting term limits? Nope. And we also ask: Is there one elected official in Albany pressing for term limits? Not a chance. That’s because rotating service by limiting terms is virtuous – a long-forgotten character trait among those who represent us in government.
By Kevin Hogencamp