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An Approach To Politics & Partisanship

   By: Josh Skandar

An Approach to Politics & Partisanship

Josh Skandar

Over and over, political activists are tackling the problem of long-term incumbents. Once someone has been elected-- or worse, re-elected-- they become difficult to unseat. Political observers contend that this situation leads to less effective government, and a little too much coziness between elected officials and their big donors and lobbyists.

More than one state has dealt with this concern by limiting the number of terms an official may serve. After so many years, you aren't eligible for re-election. So far, except for the presidency, this effort has failed at the Federal level.

Not everyone is so sanguine about this movement. There is a certain skill that goes into public policy. The philosopher Burke noted that government has a learning curve, and that this education has real value. Certainly neophyte congressmen and legislators need most of their first term just to learn the system; any real competency takes two or more terms.

Currently in Louisiana, our own term limits have just started kicking in, producing a madhouse turnover of the legislative branch, and a loss of all real seniority. The consensus among the pundits is that the winners here will be the lobbyists: they are the only ones left with any long-term experience in state policy. Shifting from incumbent to lobbyists, somehow, does not seem to be what reformers were aiming for.

There is a second problem in the political landscape, however: left vs right, republican vs. democrat. It seems that everyone is trying so hard to win out over the other side, that no one is interested win-win solutions. Beating the opponent has become more important than serving the majority. In the nasty fighting over bragging rights, it seems that the cooperative American spirit has been completely lost.

So here's a suggestion that might address both problems: Extendable Term Limits. When a candidate reaches the end of standard term limits, he/she may run again-- IF a consensus (private) vote of the body in which the candidate serves permits it. The first post-limit try, the candidate needs a simple majority. But every election after that, the required consensus increases by 3%. So first post-limit permission requires more than 50% of the concerned house; next time, more than 53%; then 56%, and so on.

For the head of state, perhaps permission from both bodies would be required, based on the same concept.

The impact from this could be large. 'Good old boys' who cut self-serving deals-- and who are not above cutting a few corners in the process-- will quickly find themselves unable to stand for reelection. Those who choose to do the real work of democracy, cobbling together coalitions, and negotiating to identify consensus opinions, will find their influence constantly increasing.

And the politicians who prefer ugly games will find themselves out of office, but quick. They will serve their terms, and be gone.

Only those elected officials who show true leadership, those who reach across the aisle, those who build consensus, those who focus on agreement, not acrimony-- those will be the people will move into increasing positions of power. And the number of their terms will directly correlate with the vision and skill they bring to the job.

Josh Skandar writes for, the non-profit bookstore listing over 3,000,000 books. Currently he is recommending Accordions, Fiddles, Two-Step, & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader, a compilation of the best material ever written on Cajun music. Click here to get your own unique version of this article.

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