How Long is Enough?

The Great Salt Lake is a foul body of water because that which flows into it never leaves.  It just stays and stays and stagnates.

Sort of reminds you of Congress.

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Try to get your head around these two facts:  In the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll 71% of Americans report an unfavorable view of Congress.  Nevertheless, 93% of incumbent Senators were reelected last year as were 97% of incumbents who ran for the House! 

They just stay and stay and stay.

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How does that happen? 

Several factors have contributed to the hijacking of the ideal of the citizen legislator who has been replaced by the career politician.

One is the simple advantage of name recognition that comes from already being in office.

Other significant structural advantages of incumbency include greater access to outside money from special interests to fuel an election campaign. Yet another perk enjoyed by many incumbents is a gerrymandered district drawn to keep their seats safe. Even though naysayers claim regular elections constitute a sufficient limit on tenure, the proposed solution to just “vote the rascals out” is much more easily said than done.

The lack of turnover in America’s legislative bodies is a fairly recent phenomenon.  In 1976, Orrin Hatch got himself elected to the U.S. Senate by railing against the incumbent for staying in Washington too long.  It had been 18 years!  Now, four decades later, Hatch, at age 83, keeps eying a possible eighth term in the Senate, even though 78% of Utah voters sampled told pollster Dan Jones they wish he would retire.

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In response to Hatch’s intransigence, the group United States Term Limits this month launched a Utah chapter devoted to the adoption of a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress. The citizens’ advocacy group supports a limit of three terms for members of U.S. House of Representatives and two terms for members of the U.S. Senate.

At least thirty-seven states have enacted some form of term limits. Utah’s legislature placed 12-year limits on its members with a law that was to go into effect in 2006. But as the deadline approached state lawmakers repealed those limits on themselves.

A Dan Jones poll last year found 88% of Utahns support congressional term limits.

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But once again, it’s not the Utah Republican Party nor the Utah Democratic Party that is in tune with what Utahns really want.  You’ll find a call for term limits only in the platform of the United Utah Party

Sounds pretty mainstream, doesn’t it?

Maybe it’s time to update your political map and membership.