Sunday, January 6, 2013

The 22nd Amendment

The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress in 1947 and was ratified by the states in 1951.  The amendment placed a term limit on the presidency, limiting it to two elected terms.  In 2009, there was talk about President Barack Obama wanting to repeal the amendment so that he could become president for life.  Congressman Jose Serrano introduced a bill when Congress opened in 2009 to repeal the Amendment.  Serrano has introduced or co-sponsored this bill every two years since 1997. He introduced it in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007.  Serrano's bill has died before ever coming to a vote.  Well, Serrano introduced the bill, again.  This has led some Republicans to state that Barack Obama wants to become President for life.  In 2009, Serrano, when questioned by FactCheck, responded, "I introduce it [the repeal bill] as a matter of principle: I do not believe there should be term limits for any elected official. Elections should be the deciding factor. I do not receive advice or support on this bill from the White House or any other source."

The idea behind Serrano's bill is that elections should effectively serve as term limits for elected officials.  In a true democracy, the people should decide how long a person actually serves.  I, personally, believe in term limits for almost all elected officials.  But, Serrano is cut from a different cloth.  Just because he does not believe there should be term limits, does not mean that Barack Obama is going to be President for life, or even wants to be.  Serrano is acting independently and is proposing these bills regardless of who is actually the President.  While it may be fun to say that Obama wants to be President for life, the evidence does not support the claim that he wants to be.

A long side note: The Consitution, as originally written, included no term limits for any elected official.  Even more technically, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments) was included only after a lengthy discussion and debate.  ANYWAYS, as a strict Constitutionalist who might believe that the Constitution is infallible such as those who argue so loudly for protecting gun rights, free speech, freedom of religion, etc. should be arguing against term limits for any elected official.  While the term limit amendment is in the Constitution, it was not originally there.  It's not a strong argument, to be sure, but it strikes me as hypocritical to say that our founding fathers knew best about most of our rights by protecting the most important ones in the Constitution and then turn around and say, they did not when it comes to term limits.

George Washington is often credited for starting a de facto term limit by retiring after two terms.  Thomas Jefferson has also been credited for contributing for these type of term limits by stating that we need term limits so the terms are not for life.  A handful of Presidents ran for the presidency for a third term, including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson (sort of), Grover Cleveland, Ulysses S. Grant, and most famously Franklin Roosevelt.  FDR was elected to four terms as President and was the first one to be elected to a third term or a fourth term.  The 22nd Amendment was passed soon after his death and some have attributed the 22nd Amendment to being a knee jerk reaction to the presidency of FDR.  Ironic to some, considering that the next time a President was popular enough to run for a 3rd term, it was Ronald Reagan.  Well, that was lengthy.

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