As I have said before, I have changed my mind, after experience has taught me the lessons, on several issues. Term limits is one. I read Jon Fleischman’s column yesterday, and thought a response was necessary. Jon has been a great asset over the years to the conservative movement, and he makes his living from politics. That is a good thing, in my estimation, because we need people like him in doing that kind of work.
He makes the point that term limits is popular because “people don’t trust politicians.” Not trusting politicians is about as American as apple pie. We in this country have always had a healthy distrust of government and those who run it. That is a good thing as well. Government and power are corrupting influences, we should always view government, and the people in power, with a jaded eye. People are people, and if they are not held accountable, they will, in many cases, turn their power to their advantage. That doesn’t hurt in the private sector, because in the private sector people always have a choice, they can go somewhere else for the services or goods they desire. In government, the abuse of power is devastating to a society.
That however is not a reason for keeping term limits. Jon cites the recent study that said that term limits is not accomplishing the goal of having someone serve a few years, and then return to live under the laws they made. That study showed that many of the people booted out of office by the term limits law moved into other government jobs. Jon says, “I can name dozens of legislators who have returned home…” Of course, the legislators he can name are all small government, conservative legislators. Where is the one place we want those legislators? In office, fighting the big government liberals. John Lewis, Ross Johnson, Jim Brulte, Curt Pringle, Chuck DeVore, any number of others, needed to stay in the Legislature fighting. Others, Tom McClintock, Jim Rogan, Jeff Denham, Bill Leonard, Chuck Poochigian and leaders like that left their Legislative jobs to go to Congress or to the courts, or other government positions, and have, or are, doing great work to protect people from government.
I have been in the unique position of seeing term limits before it took full effect in the Legislature, and staying until the time the damage of term limits was done. The problem is not, as the study said, that term limited legislators actually stay in government service, it is that once they are elected, these legislators start looking for their next elected official, or government, job. Democrat officeholders sell their soul to the special interests in order to get that next job. Republicans get sent home. Those who are truly necessary to the protection of liberty are sent packing, because they don’t sell their souls to get a job when they leave politics. The study didn’t address that impact, and that is the devastation of term limits. We have lost many of the politicians we actually trusted, because we don’t “trust politicians,” and those who really don’t deserve our trust have not been hurt by term limits. The lust for the next position has always corrupted the political process, and term limits has increased, not eliminated, that lust.
I don’t believe the cost to this state and this country of the loss of those true conservative warriors was worth that loss has cost us in loss of liberty. The problem in California is not that we have untrustworthy politicians, it is that we, as conservatives, are always looking for the easy way out. Don’t like Willy Brown? Get rid of all of the politicians, and we will get rid of Willie Brown. Why not work hard to change the minds of Californians? Why not work hard to create a conservative majority in California? That way we can get rid of Willie Brown, or Jerry Brown, or name the politician we don’t like, and replace them with a true conservative warrior. It is not enough to argue that we distrust politicians. There are trustworthy ones, and ones that we need to nurture and advance in government. Removing them has hurt us. We are losing because we don’t have enough professionals in politics, and the other side has too many.
We should be thankful for, and reward, those who fight for small government, less taxes, individual freedom, and families. We should allow them to become professional warriors for conservative causes, and we should not begrudge them their salaries or benefits. We will benefit, because they will fight for us.
The conservatives in the Legislature are no different than Jon. They make their living fighting for conservative causes. To summarily fire them after six or eight or fourteen years, hurts them, and hurts our cause, just as term limiting Jon in this job would be harmful to the cause. Liberals are wrong because they are liberals, not because they are being paid to be legislators. Get rid of them because they are liberals, and advance conservatives to legislative leadership. That is how to fix California.