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Did Cheney's Loss Just End the Term Limits Debate for Good?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Did Liz Cheney just unwittingly put an end to the debate for term limits for federal office? Term limits for members of Congress have long been a popular idea for most Americans. It was part of Newt Gingrich's famous "Contract With America" in 1994 but went down in defeat. No surprise that Congress couldn't find the will to vote themselves out of their own job. 

I love the idea of term limits. Our Founders never wanted elected office to be a full-time position. Members of Congress should follow George Washington's example and do their duty, serve their country and then go home. 

But did Cheney's historic loss this week actually prove that, ultimately, term limits aren't actually necessary?

Think about it: Cheney was perfectly poised to be the quintessential career politician. 

She was the Republican congresswoman from a heavily Republican state. 

She was part of a famous Republican family. 

She had a war chest (pun intended) of nearly unlimited campaign cash through her own and her father's political contact built up over the past five decades. 

Short of a devastating political scandal, there was no way Cheney would ever lose another election in Wyoming. 

Except, she just did. Resoundingly. Like... it wasn't even close to being close. 

So, how did that happen? The answer is easy: The electorate was informed, determined, and highly motivated. Wyoming didn't need an artificial trigger to end Cheney's tenure, they just needed to be pissed off enough to get out and vote her into forced retirement. 

In short, the system worked. 

And it's precisely how the system is supposed to work. Term limits are unnecessary as long as we have an informed electorate that actually cares enough to hold its representatives accountable. 

This week, the people of Wyoming decided that Liz Cheney no longer fit the bill as their representative. In fact, they reached quite the opposite conclusion. They decided that her actions and priorities over the past two years did absolutely nothing to represent them. So they decided to change horses, as it were. 

If Cheney can be sent packing, with the advantages for reelection she had, then anyone can be voted out. Anyone. 

All the over-paid talking heads on broadcast and cable news are obsessing about the "Trump effect" on these primaries and, specifically, in the Cheney loss... but maybe the real Trump effect is that his participation in American politics has awakened a huge part of the electorate and energized them to realize that it can truly make a difference when it gets engaged. 

I often lament the obsession Americans seem to have about politics since the dawn of the Trump era. I find it somewhat depressing that a large family meal can't happen in America without the topic of Trump or Biden or Hillary or the next presidential election being raised and the battle lines are drawn. 

It's not constructive or healthy. As important as politics are, there are at least equally important topics of faith, morals, values, culture and football that should also deserve attention when we gather with loved ones. 

However, maybe the upside is that America's new obsession with partisan politics has made it so that a Goliath like Liz Cheney can face humiliating defeat by a humble David personified by the voters of Wyoming who activated themselves and stood together to say, "Enough is enough... madam, you are excused."

So, do we really need term limits?

Yes, yes, we do. 

You see, it's not just about voters getting ticked off enough that they organize to vote out a lazy, corrupt or ineffective incumbent. Term limits are much more than that. 

They send the message that this is NOT a permanent position. That we do not want career politicians. That our political class should not be anything close to permanent. That our nation is worse off for the interminable careers of Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. 

Yes, we still need to push for term limits. Still, it's encouraging to see that when push comes to shove, they may not be entirely necessary. 


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