Paul Jacob

A uniter, not a divider? Until genocidal aliens arrive from outer space, any program that unites will divide, too. Example? Term limits.

This reform certainly unites many of those running our government ? politicians, lobbyists, legislative staff, public employee unions and even political scientists, who share uniform terror at the thought of losing their lease on power, and its many perquisites.

The voters are united, too, but squarely in favor of the reform that is as old as Aristotle, as timeless as Washington and Jefferson and as new as the last election where voters had a chance to decide. So you see the division: between the ruling class and the citizens who, in a democratic republic, are supposed to rule.

Last week, I reviewed The Test Of Time: Coping With State Legislative Term Limits, a new book full of so-called studies by academics and experts, who "scientifically" surveyed legislators and lobbyists to see just how well they think term limits are working. (I won't spoil the ending for you.)

Meanwhile, it never occurred to these students of government to ask the people what we think of this reform. After all, term limits were necessarily enacted by voters over the strenuous objection of the political class.

However, in more scientific fashion, pollsters have in fact asked the people of the fifteen states with state legislative term limits what they think. Years ago, voters passed term limits in these states by whopping margins. But what do they think now that term limits have taken effect?

Well, limits have yet to require any legislator to step down from office in Louisiana, Nebraska or Nevada. Still, in Louisiana, legislators have already begun to push measures to repeal the law. According to voter surveys, the politicians are out of step. Not only do 74 percent of voters support the limits (which passed with 76 percent support), but fully 85 percent of Bayou State voters think their legislators' opposition to limits is simply "motivated by a desire to stay in power."

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.