There should be term limits for U.S. Congress members.
Welcome to round two of the DDOlympics Supercombined event: Government and Politics
Round 1 is for Definitions and Acceptance
Rounds 2 and 3 are for arguments and rebuttals
Round 4 is for conclusions and summaries.
U.S. Congress- the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States consisting of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Term -the length of time during which a person has an official or political office
Term Limit- a legal restriction that limits the number of terms an officeholder may serve in a particular elected office.
Length of Congressional terms –
House of Representatives- Two year term elected by the people of the congressional district
Senate- Six year term selected by the state legislature.
Burden of proof in this debate is on pro, although I also intend to run a constructive case.
This is a model debate, dealing with things that should happen. It's not what will or is plausible to happen, but whether or not term limits are a good idea to institute in the US congress. It's also, just so we're clear, not about the US political system as a whole. If the senate were somehow abolished tomorrow, for instance, this motion would still be relevant. Instead, it's more about the idea of term limits in general within a US context (though I would argue the issue is actually the same everywhere).
Finally, I wish my opponent the very best of luck and look forward to a fun debate.
Thanks Larz for this debate.
After listening to your interview with TOPHATDOC, I realized that there is a considerable difference in the way political parties are ran in New Zealand than they are in America. One of the biggest issues that leads me to support Congressional term limits is the way our congress members are elected.
There is a large gap between the ruling class and the electing members. Despite the people claiming to be republican or democratic, green party, or whatever else. The people of America are largely independent and may vote for any party at their whim according to the campaign that they like the best. Also unlike New Zealand, there is no graduated election system. The American officials are elected by a majority. Sometimes that Majority is less than 50%, but being as no other person running received a higher percentage, they are elected to office. The election process and rules vary state to state. But one thing that doesn't vary is the problem that no matter what state the congress member are elected from, they are beholden to ruling class, not to the people.
Officials of the Ruling Class
The officals of the state rely on the people of the state to vote on them based on thier ability to carry out thier own interests. The officials carry out self interest not the intrest of the people who have elected them. Occasionally, a congressmen's self interest will coincide with the interests of the people but it is not necessarily the case, and not often the norm. The people are not commited to a political party and the parties they elect are not commited to them. I find that rooting for a political party is often like rootng for a sports team. It is often in my interest that my teams win, but the players are responsible to thier fans for winning and not winning, they are responsible to thier owners. I can complain or cheer till I die, but changes and desires imposed on the team come from the owners, and I, as a fan, am just along for the ride.
The rule of Law
The only thing that the lawmakers must abid by is the law itself. Once elected they are free to act on thier own will. However, as they are futher removed from thier constituants by they time they are away from thier home of record, i.e. the place they are elected from. The become more associated with the ruling class. The change occurs quickly. Congressmen no longer represent the will of the people, they become the agents of the ruling class that impose its will on the people. The only thing that can stop elected officials from absolute depotism is the law of America. The people have no power in comparison to the law. It is always the Law of America that must supported or changed in America because the will of the people is a powerless in comparison.
Power to the.. Rich
It takes a lot of money to run an election campeign. Only the rich can afford it, only the rich are electable. But, why not elect the rich? They are obviously people whe are strong leaders and have some financial prowess. The reason for not electing them is that their intrests do represent the intests of the majority of the people in thier districts.
The need to limit Authority
Whenever there is a disjunct between the will of the people and will of the ruling class, a distinct measure must inacted to restrict the will of the ruling class. One of the ways to do this is to break up the continuity of the lawmakers. The longstanding law makers in Washington my have clout among the peopel of Washington, but they no longer act on the interests of the people that elected them. It is improbable that they ever acted in the interest of the people that elected them. It is just such that thier intrests came form thier experiences, and they had similar interests because they has similar experiences. As an elected official begins to have government experiencs, the electing people continue to have thier own seperate experiences and the culture of the officials begins to change.
It is impossible for the culture of the legislatures in America to match the will of the people after they have been removed from the people after a certain period of time and there should be term limits that will allow new people to be elected to congess that are more loyal to the people.
I'm going to ask that people come to this debate without preconceptions. Particularly if you are American
Solving the Right Problem
My opponent has started out as any good debater should - attacking my personal background and experience with US politics (having debated on this site for a long time gives me a great understanding actually). Despite the US context my opponent has chosen to set the debate in, the issue of term limits is universal. The question is simply whether it's a good idea to allow the people to trust one person with too much power for too long.
The problem my opponent has presented, however, is far simpler. Here's how he thinks American politics works:
1. Hopeful young politician gets effectively sponsored to get elected, only representing the interests of the rich
2. Said politician stops even representing the interests of the rich after he makes new friends in Washington DC, and thus assert themselves as a ruling class
Suppose we add term limits to this equation. What changes? There will be new rich folks to replace the old ones, and even if they don't become as entrenched in the Washington DC culture, they were never standing for the interests of the people in the first place. The problem that my opponent is trying to solve is something between plutocracy and the development of a ruling class. The obvious solution to both is to make elected representatives accountable to the people. What my opponent has not proven is why term limits will increase accountability to the people.
This is particularly the case when I could think of many simple ways to overcome this problem much more directly - for example, limiting campaign financing, the dismantlement of the two-party structure, holding politicians legally as well as electorally accountable for false campaign promises, and not simply voting for the guy with the flashiest advertising or nicest smile.
I generally agree that elected representatives ought to be accountable to the people, but you know, that's what elections are for. They are the accountability mechanism inherent in a system called democracy, which to an extent so happens to be the political system of the united states. Ultimately people are not elected on the basis of who has the most cash, but who gets the most votes. In the last election, Mitt Romney spent more money than Barack Obama. And you know, a lot of people actually supported the president's policies. The problem is simply not problematic - if you want to see an accountability problem, travel to west africa. In the USA leaders actually have to answer for their actions.
But this kind of accountability is not the problem that term limits solves. The issue is in fact more general - should a lot of power be invested in a few people for a long time.
As I alluded to earlier, the USA is a democracy. There are frequent elections. If the people don't like how one guy is performing, they are free to elect somebody else. And the system is fair in that whoever gets the most votes wins. It might not be a majority, but it's the best consensus there is.
In addition, the USA has a second safeguard against congressional craziness - the constitution. This lays out that you can't reform America into a national socialist state, for example, no matter how much congress wants to. You CANNOT change America's system of free, fair and frequent elections, no matter how much you hate democracy.
Government by the people means trusting the people with making the right decisions, and the people placing trust in those they elect to government. Term limits, however, are based on the government distrusting the people, saying that they do not believe in the people's wisdom to make good choices about who they elect. This plays in to the very problem pro wants to avoid.
Without term limits the risk and rewards of voting a certain way lie with the people. In New Zealand we had a prime minister once - Richard Seddon - who ruled the country for well over a decade. Today he is viewed as a national hero, one of the best that we ever had. We elected him because he was actually the best person to run the country for all that time, totally caring for the interests of the people. He held office until he died.
Now of course, he was an exception. But when there were leaders who did not represent the interests of the people we voted them out. Term limits are best imposed on the basis of how good a leader people perceive congresspeople to be, and that's exactly what elections are for.
But consider the alternative, where congress enacts a bill saying that people can't decide for themselves when to limit their terms, and that they should be allowed to decide for them. That only supports the view that the people should be accountable to congress, as opposed to congress being accountable to the people. Not only is that - in my view - completely contrary to the principles of the constitution - it is also going to build this narrative that lawmakers legitimately should not care for the people's interests. First of all because their terms are short anyway, so what does it matter if in their last term they screw over the people? And second, because this fundamental piece of electoral law effectively states that the people are all stupid anyway.
Keeping the best for longer
Suppose Barack Obama organizes a 12-year initiative that will help America massively when it is completed, but is costly until then. Thanks to term limits, you can bet that some politician between now and then will campaign on a platform of getting rid of that program.
The exact same thing happens in congress. Lawmakers push a major policy and need to stay in office to defend that policy until it is finished. If the people support it, they will keep electing the politician and keep his ideas fresh on capitol hill. If they don't, then the idea will flounder as the member is un-elected anyway. Sometimes having new ideas in government is good, but other times, having long-term visions and experience is also good.
the thing about term limits is that they're a hard limit, totally inflexible (though in the US the presidential term limit has been relaxed a few times, that only goes to show how pointless that law is). When that kind of an inflexible restriction is imposed on something as fluid as politics, it's no wonder bad people get elected, because good politicians - the ones that won't get corrupted - are few and far between. And they're only allowed to stay in office for so long under term limits before a bad one must be elected.
I wish my opponent all the best for the next round. The resolution is negated.
I apologize if you felt like I was attacking you directly. After we started this debate, and I heard your interview, I realized that we are coming from two entirely different forms of perceived government. We both have emic perspectives of our own government and America’s government doesn’t work the way you described your own government working. In New Zealand term limits are not absolutely necessary. In Mexico, there is already a one term only policy for the president. Term limits are not entirely universal in their implementation, and in their necessity. However in America, they are necessary and should be implemented.
The problem my opponent has presented, however, is far simpler. Here's how he thinks American politics works:
The obvious solution to both is to make elected representatives accountable to the people.
This isn’t the only solution. The preferred solution is to make the representatives accountable people. The further removed the representatives are from their indigenous people, the less likely they are to act as a person from their home lands and more like a person from the government. A continuous flow of people being chosen from the region ensures that the self interests of the representative are relative to other people in their region.
…limiting campaign financing, the dismantlement of the two-party structure, holding politicians legally as well as electorally accountable for false campaign promises, and not simply voting for the guy with the flashiest advertising or nicest smile.
If only it were so easy.
The two party structure is in place- forcing the people to vote on new blood to enter congress will increase the likely hood of third parties becoming elected based on preferred interests of time.
There is already a recall system in place for the representatives.
Have you seen John McCain or Nancy Pelosi? I don’t think their smile has anything to do with it.
Ultimately people are not elected on the basis of who has the most cash, but who gets the most votes. In the last election, Mitt Romney spent more money than Barack Obama.
The Washington times says otherwise. Obama had over 15 million dollars more than Romney and didn’t have to spend any of the money on the primary.
The issue is in fact more general - should a lot of power be invested in a few people for a long time.
In addition, the USA has a second safeguard against congressional craziness - the constitution.
This isn’t a second safeguard, this is the only safe guard. We hold the constitutions and the written law in higher esteem than any political party, regional interest, or religious affiliation. If there isn’t a law preventing an action, it’s legal. If the people want something to happen it has to happen through the law, not through public consensus. Consider gay marriage in Utah, or Identity Laws in Arizona. This is a law driven nation and we continuously reform it through the institution of new laws.
In New Zealand we had a prime minister once - Richard Seddon - who ruled the country for well over a decade.
We had a president—Franklin D. Roosevelt –that ran our country for well over a decade too; 16 years as a matter of fact. Afterwards, we instated presidential term limits.
it is also going to build this narrative that lawmakers legitimately should not care for the people's interests.
They legitimately care for their own interests and the interests of their affiliated parties. They are not beholden to the people.
Keeping the “best” for longer
There are an untold number of people in America that could do the job as good, if not better than the current people in congress. Will we lose a few excellent law makers along the way? Probably, but they aren’t the majority, and it is a small price to pay compared to the current system which allows mediocre law makers to remain in office through complete generational shifts. New ideas are always good, and if an idea is good enough, the new congressman will take up the torch. It should be a relay race, not an individual marathon. If there are excellent congressmen, I’m sure we can find them a nice cushy job in the state legislative houses.
Being forced to choose a new representative every 6 years doesn’t necessitate a bad official to be elected.
Representatives are not agents of the people. They are agents of themselves who are believed to have similar values of the people who vote for them. America highly believes in the individualism. The need for term limits ensures that the new Representatives have recent experiences of the local region they hail from and are not so removed that they forget where they came from. The best congressmen will use their short time in office more forcefully and engage more fully in job. They will have a vested interest in improving the conditions of their region rather than enacting the will of their parties.
Thanks Larz. The resolution is affirmed.
I thank pro for another good round. I was hoping he'd bring up Roosevelt. Fun fact about long-tenured Franklin Roosevelt: he was, and still is extremely well loved, ranked alongside presidents like Lincoln (http://www.shmoop.com...). So I guess a lack of term limits served both of our countries well.
This resolution is aspirational. We're debating how the US Congress should be, not how it is. The difference is important, so I just want to get that clarified.
Who do representatives represent?
It is irrelevant to the debate whose interests representatives in the United States currently represent. We're discussing whom they should represent, in the context of whether there should be term limits. This whole debate is a question of political ideology. If congress happens not to fulfill the ideal of representation, as my opponent continually highlights, then he also needs to prove why implementing term limits will solve that problem, as I said in my last round. His position is untenable because according to him, even with term limits, politicians will screw over the people with their rabid "individualism", "self interest", "power to the rich" (though he sort of denied making this point later), and un-beholdeness to the people. These would all be very valid concerns if he could show that his model in any way solves them. It does not.
The value I'm pushing in this debate is democracy. The United States congress should be accountable to the people (which is syntactically equivalent to making the congress accountable people, so I'm not sure where pro draws the distinction). There is no room in this system for self interest, minority interest, or individual interest, at the expense of the people's interest. Fun fact: the Washington times doesn't disagree with me at all. It says Obama RAISED more money, but Romney SPENT more money. Here's a cute infographic for those having trouble grasping this concept: http://elections.nytimes.com...
I showed several other approaches to mitigating these problems - pro's response was that they are not "easy". But this is not a debate about what WILL or what COULD happen, this is about what SHOULD happen. And if a tough route is best, that's worth pursuing. Nor do I believe one magic policy would solve all problems, although at least they would mitigate the problem some of the time.
Due to this sort of engagement from my opponent, I presume that he accepts that rule by the people is generally a really important thing to respect in this debate, if not the crux of the issue as a whole.
Harms to democracy
In the last round I presented several, but most importantly that it undermines the principle of free elections, because there are candidates you would not be free to elect. I further extended that this adds to the very narrative that pro is attempting to present as the great harm of the status quo. Congresspeople would be justified in not acting in the people's interests because they would no longer be accountable to them (as they are no longer electable), and because the law limiting who people can vote for is enacted by congress, effectively establishing precedent for giving congress power over people's votes.
In response to these harms, my opponent said literally nothing. That's a surprise because I think they're the most important issues of the entire debate. The worst harm my opponent was able to present that his model actually accounts for is a perception of politicians being more closely aligned to their party than the interests of their people. Sure, that's harmful, but at least elections are not destroyed in the process. Elections are the very cornerstone of all democracy. Their integrity is not something America should dismiss lightly. Added to that, the solution causes the very harm it purports to solve, by justifying the congresspeople in not representing the will of the people and incentivising them to act in their own interest rather than the people's interest.
Keeping the best
The current system isn't what allows mediocre lawmakers to remain in power - the current voters are. Stop electing those guys, start electing guys who do know their stuff, and you're going to get much better representation. If there are an untold number of Americans who could do the job better, why not choose them? And if other aspects of the system get in the way of that - then reform the system! It's about fixing the problems, not pretending term limits solve problems arbitrarily.
Every bad idea was once new. Not all new ideas are good.
So while electing every 6 years doesn't necessitate a bad official being elected, lacking term limits doesn't ever necessitate that either. My point was that if corruption is as ubiquitous as pro claims, then most ordinary people would be seduced by it, and you wouldn't be able to tell that in advance (since they haven't actually been to the capitol yet). Therefore, in elections, you'd always be taking a big gamble under pro's model.
No response was offered by pro to my awesome arguments on long-term policies.
Keeping in touch
My opponent has tried to show that if one politician stays in power for longer than a certain period of time, they lose touch with their people. This is despite his own admission that they were never in touch with the people to begin with - in the first round he said that they're only in touch with the rich, and now it's that they're only in touch with their party. It's also despite the fact that term limits give them added incentive to get out of touch with the people.
This is why I said the issue is ultimately more general - should a lot of power be invested in a few people for a long time. My opponent disagreed with that statement, but had no analysis or argument as to why.
It seems to me that pro's narrative is that politicians should remember where they come from, and will then enact the will of the people. I think it's more likely that they do not forget, and instead exploit the people of their own states. This would be more fitting with the "self centered" - oh wait, sorry, I mean "individualist" - character of politicians pro seems to promote.
The "vested interest" under the status quo to abide by the people's will is getting re-elected. My opponent has failed to show any vested interest under his model, since he wants to make most of today's congress unelectable. Why should they care if they get re-elected if they cannot? If they are more forceful, then surely this forcefulness will be put to use serving their interests, not those of others?
And herein lies the problem. Pro has made grand vast claims about term limits. He has not shown the causal links for any of them. His claims do not hold up against any scrutiny. He has largely ignored my counter-analysis. The resolution is negated.
I look forward to the final round.
There should be term limits for U.S. Congress members.
This round is for summaries and conclusions. So I'll start with the summary. U.S. Congress members are agents of their own minds. They are more beholden to Party interests and their own financial interests than they are to the people of the places they hail from. When the representatives are first elected from their home towns their values and interests are more aligned with the culture of their home town according to their experiences. As time passes the congressmen become more associated with the empirical culture of the capital. Instating term limits will limit the exposure of representatives to the ruling class culture and keep an even flow of people who's most recent philosophies and concerns are relative to the people who are from the same area they are from.
My opponent says that the Representatives should actually represent the people and not their own interests. This is philosophically impossible. Individuals can only represent themselves. America prides itself on individualism. And the people who vote, vote in favor or the person that has the ideals which are closest to their own.
My opponent falsely names America as a democracy when it is in fact a republic. The rule of the law trumps the will of the people in all points. When the people want a thing they must rely on the law to be changed or laws added that state their interest.
Term limits should be enstated for U.S. Congress member. Because the law governs the nation. Because long term Congress members are removed from thier home town, and thier values change over time. Because new members can be as effective and/or more effective than current members. Because the people vote for the candidates who have personal interests that they agree with the most, not for the candidates that will present the populist interests the best.
We can't change the way the people vote. We can change who the people are allowed to vote for.
The resolution is affirmed. Thanks, Larz the Admin. This was fun.
I thank my opponent for a fun debate.
It all comes down to this: should America accept the value of democracy? It's not whether America is a democracy, but how America should be (mind you, democracy and republic are not mutually exclusive). Pro has claimed America has a long proud tradition of being undemocratic, individualist and screwing the people over, and yet he's the one trying to reverse that! So pro and I both agree we should throw out old ways that aren't working, even if being non-democratic was an American tradition (a point that I contest). Indeed, in his summary round, pro has called representative democracy philosophically impossible. I can assert stuff like that too. It's not.
Now let me tell you in three sentences why I've won this debate.
I dispelled every myth about term limits providing better representation that pro put forward. I showed that term limits create many more problems, even sometimes creating and perpetuating the very problems they claim to solve. This is a debate about democracy and the good it can do for America.
I have only one question for you at the end of this debate: do you want your voice to be heard?
The resolution is negated.
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