Paul Jacob

Yes, each one of the oldest guard — Republican and Democrat alike — strikes me as a walking advertisement for term limits.

And I’m not alone in this. Everywhere I go, I hear spontaneous eruptions of support for term limits. During the time I worked for U.S. Term Limits, and even today, I’ve helped with numerous term limit measures. But home-made signs for term limits were common in the recent Tea Party demonstrations, and I assure you, this wasn’t “astroturf” — the people made the signs themselves, and neither I nor U.S. Term Limits, the organization, made a big push to include this particular reform on the Tea Party agenda. The idea is simply popular.

Almost no one is so foolish as to dare oppose the 22nd Amendment, term-limiting the president. And the lessons of Niger or, say, Venezuela, reinforce our ultra-republican/very-democratic practice of limiting political tenure.

Here in America, our calcified Congress blocks the extension of term limits from the federal government’s Executive to its Legislative and Judicial branches.

Thankfully the people see the point of term limits for all wielders of power. It’s to encourage good behavior. Not with family. Not with alcohol. Not on bridges. Good behavior as representatives. (Good behavior on those other matters would be nice, too . . . but less deliverable by term limits.)

We do not want our elected representatives and senators to learn too well the ways in which power is amassed and booty divvied up. For power corrupts.

We need not say that it corrupted Ted Kennedy utterly. Indeed, from what I can see, he was far better a man than Robert Byrd or Ted Stevens, two other long-termed senators. But how much better it would have been for our country (and perhaps for Mr. Kennedy personally) had he served just two terms and then moved on to other pursuits.

Alas, we don’t live in that world. And, now, Ted Kennedy doesn’t live in ours.

Tragedies all around.

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.