President Barack Obama’s time in office is quickly coming to an end.
Even if he wanted to stay in the White House another four years, he constitutionally cannot, largely because of a smart decision made roughly two centuries ago by his predecessor, George Washington, who believed newly-independent America did not need a lifetime king.
“The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants,” he said.
What Washington started as a tradition was ushered into law with the passage in 1947 of the 22nd Amendment: Eight-year term limits for the presidency.
Strangely, the legislative branch has never felt the need to follow Washington’s wisdom.
In Ohio, there are term limits in the state House and Senate, to be sure. But there’s a loophole — if you jump from one to the other, the term limit clock resets. Lawmakers have been doing this for decades, which is exactly the problem.
Now a grassroots group calling itself “Eight is Enough Ohio” is moving forward with a fix.
It advocates an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would limits state House and Senate members to eight lifetime years in either chamber and no more than 12 years total in the General Assembly.
“Our amendment will deliver what Ohioans really want: stronger term limits and fewer career politicians,” said Eight is Enough chair Ray Warrick, who also serves as chair of the Warren County GOP.
“Ohio’s term limits are weak when compared to others around the country,” he said. “And yet, our leaders still whine about them and scheme to get around them.”
Warrick’s group cites an Akron Buckeye Poll that found 70 percent of voters believe term limits should be kept at eight years rather than lengthened, even though the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is moving “to weaken the term limits by 50 percent.”
I’ve been happy to know a few longtime local and state legislators who I admire on both sides of the political aisle.
I’ve also watched too long as others have cuddled up with lobbyists, allowing power brokers to line their war chests. Term limits are an important tool in limiting such incestuous relationships by keeping lawmakers answerable to voters, not millionaires.
I’ve also seen campaign funding by the parties held out as legal blackmail over legislators — “Vote the way the party wants, not necessarily the constituents or your conscience, or we’ll cut your cash flow.” That’s a tactic much less likely to work if outbound candidates have no campaign bucks to lose.
The same goes for political favors, internal jockeying for committees, and other career rewards.
Those lame ducks would also be able to fall on the sword and make extremely unpopular but necessary decisions. They could vote to raise taxes if needed. They could vote to cut military spending if needed. They could vote in gun controls if needed. They could fix school funding, which is certainly needed.
In short, term limits would allow Ohio’s representatives to do the right thing.
Whether any of this will come to pass is anyone’s guess. For now it’s in the hands of Eight is Enough Ohio — and yours.