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Living without . . .

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The cortège goes on and on. As I write these words, mourners still proceed by the casket of Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D-Mass). Organizers have all but thrown out the schedule. Ceremonies drag on longer than planned.

And I’m thinking, alas, that we’re burying a man who — while alive — served as a great advertisement for term limits.

Thus he did a great public service, in his own way. Far more salutary than, say, serving as a living, walking advertisement for better guard rails on bridges and waterside roadways.

Sorry about that last comment. There’s little reason to speak ill of the dead. But then, all this adoration and sorrow shown for the man bespeaks of modern celebrity worship that I have trouble applauding. It also indicates some deep commitment to the kind of politics that Ted Kennedy practiced — massive redistribution and the progressive centralization of power masking interest-group appeasement with fancy words and flowery ideology.

Is it possible, too, that we witness just a touch of media folks’ true affiliations?

The big truth, though, is that Kennedy’s politics are just what you’d expect from someone who lasted so long in politics. His ideas dovetailed with the accumulation of power, and its maintenance. The longer one stays in office, the more one learns how to gather votes for programs that force government’s intrusive hand further into everyday life.

There’s something in unlimited terms and the status of “politician-for-life” that goes hand in hand with a big-government agenda. And it is that agenda, and its tragic consequences (which we are witnessing, now, with increasing ferocity, each twist of history’s knife), that speak so eloquently of the need to restrict such accumulations of power.

How many terms did he serve in the Senate? How many times have you heard how many terms? The answer to the first question is: Nine. That works out to 46 years and 242 days. He didn’t serve as long as Robert Byrd (51 years and counting), but he did squeeze in more uninterrupted time than Strom Thurmond. Great company.

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.

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