One of the most trusted arguments in a conservative’s arsenal is W.W.F.F.D. or “What Would the Founding Fathers Do?” Former State Assemblyman and fellow Flash Report blogger Ray Haynes makes that very appeal in his spirited defense of Prop. 28, the latest effort by Sacramento politicians to undermine California’s term limits law. I greatly respect and admire Haynes’s service in Sacramento. He fought for limited government principles, even when no one was looking, and was routinely the only legislator to vote no on silly and unnecessary bills.
But, he’s dead wrong on Prop 28 and the Federalist Papers.
I’ve always been confused about my position on term limits. In theory, term limits are another government regulation that unnecessarily limits voter choice. Then again, in practice, one only needs to look at the number of “conservative” politicians that are corrupted after too much time in Washington. (Cough, cough, GOP Congress of the 2000s, I’m talking about you.)
After reading Haynes’ column, I’ve more convinced that Prop 28 should be defeated. Haynes defends Prop 28 by pointing to the office-shopping of state legislators.
Unfortunately, the moment someone gets elected to the Assembly, that person starts looking for his or her next job in politics. The result has been a legislature out of control, completely ceding its authority to the special interests that fund and support the Democrats. At least Proposition 28 would have some positive effect on changing that dynamic.
Positive effect? There are no term limits in Washington, D.C. and it’s as much of a mess as Sacramento, arguably worse. Washington’s debt burden stands in the trillions, while Sacramento wastes just a few billion dollars per year. I’d take Sacramento’s fiscal mismanagement over Washington’s any day of the week.
Haynes also cited Federalist Paper No. 10, as if to imply that the Founders would have liked Prop. 28. As a former Publius Fellow of the Claremont Institute, I’m well-versed in all things Publius. Haynes should re-read Federalist No. 39.
If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.
The Framers believed that politicians should go back and live under their laws. Madison, our most underrated Founding Father, was incredibly concerned about “tyrannical nobles.” Tyrannical nobles, maybe Frank Luntz ought to test that phrase. That’s essentially what we have in both Washington and Sacramento.
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that either side of the term limits debate frame their message around the Federalist Papers. For a far better explanation of the problems with Prop. 28, check out a great blog post by Philip Blumel, the president of U.S. Term Limits. He makes a compelling case against Proposition 28. You should also check out FR Publisher Jon Fleischman’s recent commentary.
And, if you’re like me and Ray Haynes and geek out over things like the Federalist Papers, check out the Claremont Institute’s Publius and Lincoln Fellowship programs. It’s an intensive and fun-filled training on America’s founding principles.