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Term Limits for Congress?

Ray Blain is a retired pediatrician and medical consultant, and author of a forthcoming autobiography Becoming A Doctor; My Dreams and Nightmares.

Recently I heard someone propose that Congress (both the House and Senate) should have term limits. We chose to do that with our legislators decades ago primarily because a few politicians had accumulated so much power they were able to control and limit what happened in the California legislative branch.

We have been seeing the same phenomenon for decades at the federal level also. We have elections so that the people determine who makes laws in our country. Unfortunately, many people only look to what their representative will get them and not what is good for society as a whole.

These short-sighted individuals often keep reelecting legislators who accumulate increasing power to control legislative action. So some would propose term limits to prevent this from happening.

Term limits are a mixed blessing. Some of the negatives include: experience that comes with time is lost because time removes the very people who have acquired the expertise, thus we are throwing the baby out with the wash water; legislative staff pass from one legislator to another so they become the experts and have a greater impact at what happens, but they were not elected; offices pass from one relative to another as they decide to run for office and a "dynasty" accumulates the power.

So what is the answer? The best way to redistribute power to the people is for people to become better educated about the issues and hold the politicians they elect to the promises they made when campaigning. We must also realize, however, that circumstances change and at times our representatives must change their position to do what is best for the people.

We must acknowledge that we have a country where the largest political party is non-voters. There is an old saying that bad politicians are elected by good people who don't vote. I would add that bad politicians are also elected by people who vote because of single issues they consider important while ignoring the sum total of the positions of the candidate.

In the 1930s, Germany had an economy that had collapsed, a government of laws, and a serious undercurrent of anti-semitism, feelings of being wronged by the Treaty of Versailles, and fear of minorities and intellectuals.




One man rose to power by bringing economic prosperity as he built a huge war machine, removed 6 million Jews and 3 million political opponents, reporters, priests, nuns and retarded in prison camps and gas chambers.

The German federal legislators surrendered their power to this demagogue, not intentionally but over time because of selfish political ambitions. These actions solidified his power as the good people chose to look the other way and be pleased that economic prosperity had returned.

They paid the price of short sightedness, selfishness, gradual loss of political power to the dictator, and increasing fear to oppose the atrocities of he and his henchmen.

As a result millions of German soldiers died fighting Russia on the eastern front in places like Stalingrad, and millions more in North Africa, Italy and Western Europe fighting the allies. The end result was that Eastern Europe and Germany became a prison camp for almost three generations.

In the end temporary economic prosperity resulted in disaster for the economy, the country, democracy, and life itself for millions of Germans and other Europeans who were unable to unite and remove the dictator. Are we repeating the same mistakes?

The only way to prevent repetition of this disaster here in America is for the silent largest political group, the non-voters, to join the battle to save our democracy and our rule of law before it is too late. We don't need term limits, we need a politically active electorate that cares more about preserving our freedom and democracy than about who won the Super Bowl or what rich celebrity is involved in what scandal this week.

Let's talk about it to each other civilly and most of all listen to other viewpoints, find out the facts, and use our God-given intellects and sense of morality to do the right thing. Then we must shout out our beliefs by voting, before we also are silenced by fear and prejudice.

Wake up America and become politically active. Your freedom is at stake.

~ Raymond Leo Blain, M.D., Masters in Public Administration
































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