by Walter LaGraves…….
Thank God and Greyhound it’s gone…the election season is gone.
Nonetheless we should give much thought to the wind that is sweeping our nation. It heralds a fundamental sea change in American governance.
It’s clear that America is fed up with politics as usual, recently the Democrats have suffered crushing defeat after crushing defeat. The tsunami of change has impacted local, county, state, and federal governance.
Recent national polling reveals that nearly 75% of likely voters support term limits for Congress. Only about 13% are in opposition.
Here in Florida our Governor and our Legislators are term limited. Many local and county officeholders are term limited. It works!
The time for term limits here in Monroe County has come. In one recent county wide election a 20 year office holder was defeated by a political newcomer. Amongst the litany of complaints against the veteran politico were that the incumbent had personally substantially benefited by voting on several public issues. The fact of that ousting proves that that official should not have held the office for as long as it was held. Term limits stifle personal aggrandizement.
There are arguments voiced against term limits. The naysayers claim that each election cycle is actually a term limit given that the office holder must stand for reelection. I believe that argument to be specious.
The reality is that every day a public office holder holds office, his/her power grows. She/he is exposed to an ever widening circle of persons and interests each pursuing their own agendas. Human nature being what it is, if the office holder acts in a manner beneficial to the special interests, the office holder will be rewarded with support and donations. As the grasp of special interests strengthens exponentially, the influence of the individual voter wanes.
A person seeking a term limited office is more likely to seek office with a sincere desire to actually be a public servant rather than to seek public office for personal enhancement. Long term office holders often become enamored with their self perceived power and worth. Power is intoxicating.
The hoary adage that “Money is the Mother’s Milk of Politics,” is a truism that is as fresh and relevant today as it was decades ago when Big Daddy Jesse Unruh first uttered it. Incumbents, especially long term incumbents, have a built in advantage over challengers. They nearly always have the backing and fiscal support of those they have benefitted. A simple examination of public records that chronicle political contributions will reveal that to be true.
In a county election a few years two candidates for Monroe County wide office squared off. One was a long term incumbent. The other a long term Keys business person with a rich history of volunteer public service. The incumbent’s campaign took in tens of thousands more dollars in cash and “in kind” than did the challenger. The lions share of the incumbents donations were from business interests. Most of the incumbent’s donations exceeded $500. Most of the challengers donations were $200 or less.
The challenger, while known county wide, did not stand a chance against the juggernaut of the incumbent. The challenger lost.
Term limits will engender new ideas and fresh perspectives to solutions of the gordian problems attendant to governance. A newly elected official to a term limited office is less likely to beholden to any entity other than the voters.
Holding elected office should not be a profession. The best public servants are those that realize that they are doing the work of the people for a specific, and limited, period of time. Then it is time for new blood, new resolve to serve the governed rather than the government.
It’s time for Monroe County to move for the establishment of term limits on county wide offices.