Rethinking presidential term limits

It’s my understanding that first-term presidents are often unwilling to implement many of their more radical policies because they have to concentrate on re-election. In their second term, however, they can become more adventursome. While this has the advantage of moderating presidential behavior, it leads to a lot of foot-dragging and time wasting as well. So, I hearby put forth the following proposal: we abolish presidential term limits. However, at the same time, we legislate that no president may serve two consecutive terms. This encourages presidents to implement policies that are long-term solutions, rather than just stop-gaps, and allows us to keep the ones who do a good job. We elect someone, they do the best job they can, and we have four more years to see if their policies actually work. If they do, we can re-elect them. Is this a workable idea?

In order to abolish the two-term presidential limit requires a constitutional amendment. Having done that, you want to replace it with a law prohibiting two consecutive terms?


Are you aware of the deliberate difficulties involving in passing constitutional amendments? Are you aware of the deliberate ease that laws can be changed, repealed, etc?

While your overall idea sounds intriguing, your implementation of it is wholly inadequate.

Perhaps a longer, single term presidential term, say six years instead? A president has one shot to do the job and then they are out. However, one person can do quite a bit of good, or bad, in one six-year term. OTOH, requiring a sitting president to go before the voters in fours years time is strong incentive to not only not try hard the first term, but not go overboard either.

The real problem is not that a president spends their first term doing “nice” things in order to be re-elected and finally do the job, but the short-sighted attitude of American culture in general. Everything is in the here and now. If there isn’t instant gratification, instant results, it’s not worth pursing.

So you want to give a president a safer environment to implement radical policies?

If a president’s policies cause him not to be re-elected then I think the system is already doing what it is suppose to do.

I’m fully in favor of letting voters decide. Term limits imply that voters are too stupid to kick a bad offial out of office.

On a practical note, though, I gotta agree with Duckster. We’re talking constituional ammendment here, and that’s (rightly so) a VERY difficult thing to do. People seem to be pretty happy with the current situation and there’s no real pressure to change it.

I would be in favor of an amendment that limited presidential terms to one six year term. That way, there would be no waste of time and resources on campaigning. I would also support re-election in non-consecutive terms. We elect senators to six year terms; why not the President?

Yeah, I know. But I’m speaking in the hypothetical here. I’m not holding my breath waiting to emigrate to Libertaria, either.

I thought about that too, but sometimes a seemingly radical solution is called for. Anyway, despite, say, the cries of the anti-Bushistas, the president is not a dictator. I do have some modest faith in congress and the supreme court to temper a chief executives’ wildest flights of fancy.

I have more faith in the American voters. If a radical solution is called for then I don’t the the President is risking re-election to implement it. If the people are against the radical solution then the President should have to re-think it.

The only reason I can think of to support longer terms is the cost and time savings. Elections are expensive and time consuming. I am not sure if that is enough reason to support a consititutional amendment though.

Elections are costly and time-consuming because we have allowed them to become costly and time-consuming.

At the same time, costly and time-consuming elections means only those with the money and power can effectively run for political office. This immediately disenfranchises the vast majority of Americans who would otherwise be eligible for elective office and have new and imaginative ideas about governing.

If your intent is to provide a more balanced check on presidential power, then perhaps opening up avenues for a greater number of potential qualified candidates should be considered. Yeah, I know this might open up a whole new can of worms, but I’m not suggesting a carte blanche approach, either.

Shortening the campaign cycle, federal non-partisan funding come to mind here. Campaign financing reform might include all donations go into a pot and divided up (some formula) among the candidates. By additionally placing limits on campaign costs one might expect more hats thrown into the arena. After all, a major gripe of non-voters is the major candidates are too often cookie cutter clones of each other with only the toppings being different.

Keep the presidential two-term constitutional limit in place. It work just fine. A better approach is to fix campaign financing, compaign spending limits and the primary election game. We might then have local and regional popular and effective potential candidates going head to head with national name folks. That in turn might bring back voters who want candidates and potential leaders with backbones, ideas, vision and want to do good for the electorate and citizenry, and not just special interest factions.

President-for-Life George W. Bush and Alternate President-for-Life John Ashcroft.

Okay, I’ve thought about that enough. Where’d I put that bottle of Jameson?

A lot of Southern states had systems like the one Emilio Lizardo proposes. If you look at George Wallace’s career, for example, he served several terms as Governor of Alabama, none of them consecutive.
I wouldn’t necessarily look to the South for advice on how to run a government, although on the other hand, making the President sit out a term would increase turnover, and thus provide more characters for “The Ex-Presidents” on “Saturday Night Live.”

Hmm, the only 3 term president was FDR, who nearly put us thruogh a constiutuional crisis in his 3rd term, when some say his wife was running the Oval Office. Not a good example.

Who, recently could have become 3rd termers? Reagan? Maybe, and that would have been very, very bad. He was losing it mid way thru his second term.

Clinton? Well, at least he wouldn’t have gone sick or senile. And we’d know for sure whether the current recession is just an economic swing, or Bush’s fault (I think it is both- the swing was starting, but lack of confidence in Bush made it swing faster & deeper). But the “Klinton-haters” had gotten so out of control that the nation would have been deeply divided. I’d say “debateable”.

So- we have one 3rd termer who was a bad idea. One who would have been a disaster. And another that is debateable.

So, until we have had a few second termers who we all agree it is a crime for them not to be allowed a 3rd term, why bother?

Wow, DrDeth, am I reading you right? Something was completely wrong with the executive branch in the United States, 1941-1944? What exactly was wrong? The U.S. war effort? Something about Eleanor Roosevelt’s decisions? Who is it that thinks she was “running the Oval Office”? Did she make primarily military decisions? Diplomatic ones? Economic ones? I don’t understand.

How was electing FDR to a 3rd term a bad idea? Lots of people must have felt it was a good idea, because he was also elected to a 4th term.

Sorry, I meant his last (4th) term, not his 3rd. Mis-spoke.

[nitpick] Dr Death FDR won 4 elections, he just died one year into his 4th (1932, 1936, 1940 & 1944)[/nitpick]

The two term notion comes from George Washinton who feared he would assume the role of ‘king’ in the new republic. Still, the lame duck issue has spread nationwide as an alternative to real campaign finance reform. You wanna talk stop-gap, that’s the best classification of the modern term-limit debate.

A constitutional amendment would also probably be needed for spending limits (1st amn issues, etc), so why not a combined amendment repealing term limits and setting spending limits (using some reasonable forumula which adjusts for economic circumstance). You still run into the advantage of encumbancy (recognition, improper use of staff for campaign), but the OP has a good point, term limits means lame ducks = bad policy.

Good luck getting the amendment approved. :frowning:

I’d be interested in the specifics behind the allegations that Dr Deth made in his post. Care to explain what you were talking about, and identify what constitutional crisis you meant, who are the “some” who say Eleanor was running the White House, etc.

(I suspect you may have the latter confused with Wilson, whose wife did carry on for him for better than a year while he was incapacitated by a stroke toward the end of his second term.)

I’ll look it up, and get back to you guys Tuesday, assuming this hasn’t died a dog’s death by then.

Yes, I knew about Wilson also, but I did think that the same happened with FDR. Reagan’s hand was also not “firmly on the wheel of state” during his last couple of years.

You know what I’d like to see? A mandatory death sentence at the end of the first term, with the caveat that if a President can get himself reelected to a second term, the death sentence is commuted.

I know I’d have much more confidence in the President if I knew he were willing to put his life on the line for what he believes is best for the country.

Aren’t they? Regular people are pretty stupid. If you spent all your spare time here on the SDMB, you might think that most people have well-developed ideologies and well-reasoned positions on issues and that they judge political leaders in comparison to those. In the real world, people vote for a guy because they like his appearance, his tone of voice, his disarming smile. If they make any valuation of a candidate on the issues, it’s bound to be the most simple and short-sighted interest. The poor vote themselves the treasury, the rich vote themselves favorable trade treaties and municipally granted monopolies. Maybe the voters aren’t smart enough to decide.

Didn’t the Romans do something like this, or the Athenians? I remember something about a primitive republic that would send the representatives back home after their terms and their fate would be decided by the people they represented, that they could kill him if they wanted. I could be waaaaaaaaay misremembering this, but I the friend who told me about this speaks latin, so he probably knew something about it.