Paul Jacob

Needless to say, the Yes on Prop 93 campaign isn’t putting it quite this way in their TV ads. Instead, they try to pretend they are supporters of term limits, who want to “improve” them. But while they constantly talk of the measure “cutting terms from 14 to twelve years,” they also admit the real purpose: “More time [uh . . .] to solve problems.”

And while the politicians and special interests favoring the proposition are outspending the No side by more than $10 million dollars ($17 million to a tad over $6 million), they also aren’t explaining the “transition period” to voters. The transition period is to allow the current leaders, Nuñez and Perata, as well as 40 other members of the legislature, who are set to be termed-out of office to stick around for another four or six years.

In one of the more blatantly self-serving arguments for Prop 93, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger flip-flopped urging voters to “make a little adjustment, so we give those guys an extra few years, so they gain more experience so we can work together. I need those guys now.”

Come to think of it, the Governor’s pathetic morphing from Terminator to “needy guy” is yet another great argument for term limits.

Want more? The largest donor to the Prop 93 campaign is the anti-term limits California Teachers Association. According to the group’s president, David Sanchez, “The California Teachers Association believes California voters should have the right to support or oppose any candidate for political office and should not be denied the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice because of artificial barriers such as term limits.”

It’s really nasty enough to attempt to hoodwink voters. But supporters of Prop 93 have even less shame. They’ve regularly attacked those of us who favor term limits in Orwellian terms, for instance calling me the nation’s leading “opponent of term limits reform.” I am used to being called a leading proponent of term limits, so this charge does have the sting of novelty. But the logic behind the rhetoric is clear:

    • Reform being good, I now get characterized as being “against reform”

    • But the thing to be “reformed” is itself good (so say voters)

    • Which reveals the politicians’ hidden definition of reform: destruction

In just this way down is up, war is peace, and a liar is an honest man.

As Lew Uhler, president of the National Tax Limitation Committee and a co-author of Proposition 140, which established California’s term limits 18 years ago, put it, “Hell hath no fury like a legislative leader about to be termed out of office.”

While most citizens around the country contemplate this weekend’s Super Bowl party or whether they have something clean to wear to church, the power elite in Sacramento (and the 14 other term-limited state capitals across the nation) are all atwitter awaiting Tuesday’s California result, hoping their latest scheme will work.

If it works in California, expect incumbents in all the other term-limited states to attempt the same scam: Pretend to be cutting time for politicians while actually expanding it.

But it won’t work. Term limits are here to stay. And that’s truly super!


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.