Paul Jacob

Senator Chris Beutler doesn't get it. He's not alone. Many politicians in other districts in other states similarly don't get it.

"I still don't understand," Beutler confessed, "why people would want to give up their right to choose whoever they please."

Chris Beutler is only one of many Nebraska politicians who chafe at the idea of term limits. Nebraska's voter-enacted limits are more recent than those of many other states. So Nebraskans now endure political maneuvers and machinations that states such as Montana and Arkansas and California have gone through already: a revolt of the political class. In this case, a politician-sponsored referral to the voters of a repeal of term limits enacted just five years ago.

Beutler, a 22-year veteran, has sponsored the bill, and points out that it will not affect his slated exit from office. The bill would go into effect in 2010, one term after Beutler's rise to the top will be given its term-limit directed setback, four years after 20 of 49 state senators are usherred out the door. Though if the repeal were to pass, Beutler and his cronies could then return to the unicameral after just one term out.

The senator thinks of his opposition to term limits as noble, selfless.

Yup. He just doesn't get it.

It's an occupational hazard, really, the hazard of representing "the people" while being set off from them by the very job one holds. One comes to believe that whatever makes one's job easier, or more stable, is what's "good for the people."

But of course that isn't the case. A union of interests between rulers and the ruled is pretty hard to negotiate. Throughout human history, the rulers have proven themselves more than able to extract more benefits from the system they impose than the ruled can manage.

Which is why savvy citizens are skeptical of politicians. Even in a democracy. That's also why citizens support the very thing the befuddled senator doesn't understand, term limits.

But give him a break: it's not just politicians who "don't get" certain fairly clear ideas.

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.