Paul Jacob

In the 1990s, term limits raged across the country by way of local and statewide voter initiatives. Only a controversial 5-4 Supreme Court decision striking down the 23 state laws limiting the terms of their congressional delegations and a totally arrogant and unrepresentative Congress have kept legislative term limits at the federal level from taking effect.

The Pew survey found 95 percent of Americans agreed that it is a problem that elected officials in Washington “care only about their own political careers.” Of those, 81 percent cited it as a “major problem.”

Now, we see the Tea Parties and a new outpouring of public engagement in politics.

Yet, there is another side to this story that ought to be news: the near universal lack of response from those in public office.

With the public so up in arms, where are the serious reform proposals? Where is the acknowledgement of congressional mistakes? Where are the additional checks and balances and limitations on federal government power?

Our constitutional republic is run and maintained via a representative democracy (with, at the state level, some refreshing bolts of voter input through initiative and referendum). So, our system of government’s entire sense of legitimacy rests on the people feeling that the government acts with their consent. (This is a very American ideal, and one that is bedrock to our common sense of right and wrong in government. It is also bedrock to the perspective I share with readers of my Common Sense email letter.)

When the people lose faith in their government, it’s serious. But when the people lose such faith and those they elect to represent them take no notice of it — or any action to restore public confidence — the problem is more than just “serious.”

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.