It’s no secret here in the United States that Congress is broken and horribly unpopular. Budgets can’t get passed on time, the all-important appropriations process has become non-existent, and the term “regular order” is a thing of the past. Our leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle ignore our nation’s most obvious problem – our addiction to spending money we don’t have – while focusing on attending parties to fund their own re-election efforts.
Earlier this month, a Fox News poll found that a whopping 67 percent of those surveyed would vote to replace all current Members of Congress with someone new. While that is a startling statistic, sadly it’s essentially meaningless because we all know that will never happen.
The reason for this has to do with the lack of competitive districts. In 2012, only 62 U.S. House races out of 435 were decided by 10 percentage points or less. In 2014, there will probably be as few as 50 competitive House elections – just 11 or so percent of the total contests. Similarly in the U.S. Senate, out of the 36 seats up for re-election this year, fewer than 10 races will likely end up being truly competitive. Facts are facts: most Members of Congress feel like they have nothing at all to fear at the ballot box and are subject to no other motivating force to change the broken ways of Washington.
When you combine the enormous number of “safe” seats with the fact that there are no congressional term limits, you are left with scores of well-funded, entrenched incumbent politicians who are accountable to no one. If you want to know the reason the United States got to be $17.5 trillion in debt, look no further.
Like Senator Rand Paul says, we need more citizen legislators in this country and Citizens United agrees with that sentiment wholeheartedly. In fact, that is precisely what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they thought of how their new Republic should be represented. Individuals with a sense of duty to their country would step forward and represent their districts and states for a short period of time and then return to their homes and primary professions. The Washington of today makes a mockery of such wisdom.
It’s certainly a depressing scenario we find ourselves in, but there is an obvious solution. In the current 113th Congress alone, more than 10 resolutions have been filed calling for some sort of limit on the number of terms members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate should be allowed to serve.
Ending the era of the “career politician” in the halls of Congress would be a huge step in the right direction and would change the mindset of those seeking office. But making Washington reform itself won’t be easy; in fact it will take nothing short of a grassroots uprising.
I urge all Americans to read the pieces of legislation I mentioned and to call their Member of Congress to demand action. Take note of who is sponsoring these bills and ask them what you can do to get them moving through the legislative process. Politicians have a funny way of responding to overwhelming pressure – let’s make them sweat. Congressional term limits is a reform all Americans should unite behind and finally make a reality.