Term Limits, Gerrymandering, and Campaign Finance Reform
Advocates use the wrong constitutional argument.
April 5, 2018
Congressional term limits, gerrymandering, and campaign finance reform dominate and polarize political conversation.
We can resolve all three. And it’s not as difficult as you may think.
President Franklin Roosevelt died shortly into his fourth term in office. In 1947, Republicans proposed the 22nd amendment to the Constitution, limiting the president to only two four-year terms. They didn’t want another intensely popular Democratic president. It was ratified in 1951.
The 22nd doesn’t cover Congress. Some claim that congressional term limits will bring “new blood” into Washington. Much of that belief is based on lies, and Russian internet bots are largely responsible for spreading them.
Governing is a skilled profession.
The past year teaches us that not just anyone can walk in the door
and govern productively. We want professional doctors, engineers,
mechanics, and plumbers.
Why would we want amateurs to run our government?
Congressional term limits are built into the Constitution.
They're called elections. When voters are unhappy with their
legislators, they can elect someone else.
But gerrymandering and current campaign finance laws heavily favor
incumbents and make it nearly impossible to defeat them,
regardless of what the public wants.
Fair elections would easily eliminate ineffective, bloated, and unresponsive legislators.
But we don’t have fair elections.
Adopting term limits would require a constitutional amendment. That’s not an easy task.
Article V permits two methods of amending the Constitution:
Either way, it would take about ten years of intensive lobbying and community organizing, and about a billion dollars, to get this done. And there’s no guarantee what we’d end up with.
But we can solve the problem more quickly and thoroughly without an amendment.
The Constitution requires that the government conduct a census of residents every ten years to determine how many people live in the United States. We use those numbers to determine how many representatives each state gets in the House of Representatives in Congress. There are many other uses for the census data as well, but they’re not relevant here.
Once the census report allots the appropriate number to each state, state committees use the data to draw the boundary lines for each Congressional district and for their state legislative districts. Gerrymandering divides states, counties, etc. into election districts to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible. (Dictionary.com)
It effectively gives unlimited terms to entrenched legislators. And Republicans have an organized program, through the American Legislative Exchange Council, to exploit it every way they can. Republicans control most state legislatures, and therefore they control the districting process. That’s why Democrats win few elections, regardless of how many votes they get. See the FairVote.com website for more details.
Recently, there’s a lot of lobbying and community organizing around gerrymandering. Several lawsuits are working their way through the court system. Gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Campaign finance reform is the effort to change the way money influences politics.
Elections are expensive. Officials holding high elected office spend enormous time and energy raising money to fund their campaigns, to keep their jobs. The Federal Election Commission allegedly regulates that process, but they actually do very little because our Republican government doesn't want anyone interfering with their plans.
The process is rigged to benefit the incumbents who, because of gerrymandering, are predominantly Republican. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision held that “money is speech” – those who have the most money get to have the most speech. That opened the door for wealthy people and corporations to fund political action committees supporting evermore conservative Republicans. Liberal organizations, even with labor union support, can’t even come close to having enough money to counteract that influence.
HOW TO FIX IT
Gerrymandering and the campaign finance system obstruct fair elections.
Lawsuits have been winding through state and federal courts for a few years. Advocates argue that the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment governs the issues. It does not.
They’re using the wrong argument.
Gerrymandering and current campaign finance laws violate
Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution:
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this union a Republican Form of Government ...."
In a republic, voters elect representatives to operate their government.
Gerrymandering and campaign finance laws prevent voters from choosing
the representatives they want.
That prevents a government that truly represents the public wishes.
Thus, they are illegal.
Fair voting districts will ensure that the candidates preferred by the public are actually elected.
And that will eliminate the need for term limits.
While advocates support each other’s work in theory, they should collaborate their efforts whenever possible.
You can help by joining the work or lobbying on your own.
For More Information
American Legislative Exchange Council
Campaign Finance Reform: American Civil Liberties Union
Community Matters: You can be a lobbyist
Federal Election Commission
Office of Personnel Management: Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress
U.S. Census Bureau
Read the Constitution
Lobbyists are not the problem. Lobbying is not what the politicians and media tell you it is.
"Giving buckets of money to legislators" is not lobbying.
Lobbying is the act of trying to convince elected officials - local, state, and federal - to support or oppose legislation and policies that you care about.
Lobbying is the ONLY thing that can restore our democracy. Our schools are supposed to teach this stuff, but they don't want you to know that YOU have the power to influence your government.
For the record, members of Congress do not get “full pay for life” as a pension after serving only one term. They have the same pension as all other federal employees. And they do pay into it. Their health insurance is under Obamacare, and they pay for it. If Obamacare ends, Congress will likely revert to its old system wherein they had the same health insurance as all other federal employees. And they did pay into it. See the Office of Personnel Management website.]
Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803 ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15227 ~ 412-310-4886 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Patricia A. O'Malley ~ All rights reserved
Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice