The misguided conservative demand for term limits

The race to succeed Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the head of the Senate Republicans is in full swing, with candidates trading ideas, promises, and fundraising in exchange for their colleagues’ support.

One proposal generating Hill chatter and a few vocal proponents is to limit the terms a Republican leader can serve. Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) — both candidates for the job — have publicly committed to the idea. Another candidate, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), said he’s “not averse to having that conversation, but there are a lot of things we need to think through.”

Conservatives should seek power and be willing to use it if they want to have an impact on the state.

There is good reason to pump the brakes on this sort of tea-party thinking, however: power, pure and simple.

But first, the history (or the sentimentality) behind the idea. Americans have a certain attachment to the notion, going back to the debates surrounding the Constitution of 1787, when anti-Federalists like Thomas Jefferson supported codifying term limits for Congress and the executive. They argued it would curtail power’s tendency to corrupt. They lost the debate, but President George Washington voluntarily stepped down after two terms anyway, shocking the world with the historic precedent he set. Term limits have enjoyed a romantic reputation in America ever since.

We eventually enshrined the two-term executive limit in 1951 (over the protests of President Harry S. Truman, and future criticisms from Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton), but how necessary was it, and how effective has it been? While President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first (and last) to win four terms in the White House, less than half of his predecessors had sought and won a second term. Of those who had won a second term, only Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt had tried for a third term, and both were defeated.

Since the 22nd Amendment was ratified, impeachment, assassination, old age, and old-fashioned unpopularity have served as strong enough checks of their own. Still, the legend lives on.

“The tea party attachment to term limits will never die,” one longtime Senate aide told Blaze News. “Everyone thinks they’ve found the single hack that will save the system.”

In fairness to its proponents, 2024 McConnell is a shuffling advertisement for term limits. The longest-serving party leader in congressional history used his 17 years to accumulate immense power, creating a sort of third party outside of his own in the process. He will practically need to be carried out when he retires from leadership in November.

He’s not alone in this success. On the other side of the aisle, former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) created a similarly powerful fiefdom, leading the Democrats for a dozen years until his retirement.

But what’s the actual problem here? Reid’s deep knowledge of the Senate — its history, procedures, and tricks — was the envy of conservatives for a decade. Likewise for McConnell, who in his day was feared by Democrats for his ability to use the instruments of his office to make demands, exact concessions, and wield influence.

The examples of their power deserve the envy they engender. Conservatives should seek power and be willing to use it if they want to have an impact on the state. Their supporters sent them to Washington to change the country’s course, not to invent new norms that deny experience and expertise to competent Republican leadership.

“Democrats won’t ever do [term limits], so you’re handicapping yourself,” one Washington politico with years in Republican leadership told Blaze News. A lot of those same conservatives calling for returning Democrats’ lawfare, he noted, seem to want “this self-imposed restraint here.” There’s an irony there.

For decades, conservatives talked themselves out of fighting back, repeatedly warning that any power they acquired could be used against them someday. Well, that day has come and gone and will come every day again and again as sure as the sun rises in the morning. Power is being used, regardless of what nonaggressive stands conservatives shackle themselves to.

Term limits serve only to weaken the party leader. If conservatives want to win, they don’t want a weak leader — they want a strong leader who aligns with what they value. You only burn your forts you’ve taken if you can’t hold them. If the American right ever wants to graduate from sniping from the woods, it better start taking some forts — and holding them.

The Daily Caller: Senate Republicans back big change to prevent repeat of McConnell era

The Federalist Society: Do term limits make a difference?

Bedford: McConnell’s retirement marks the end of the disastrous Bush era

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IN OTHER NEWS

Hunter Biden’s dumb conviction

Hunter Biden is guilty of lying on his gun forms. It was a strange case, even though his guilt is plenty apparent. Why? Because very few people are prosecuted for this crime alone. You see it tacked onto things like robbing a bank or shooting at someone, not for keeping a gun locked up in a box.

This reality gives credence to Democrats’ complaint this is only happening because Hunter Biden is the son of the president. They’re right about that, too — just not in the way they think.

Hunter Biden got a lot of special treatment for being the son of the president, including a sweetheart deal to get out of trouble for both the gun thing and criminal tax evasion – and any future investigations tied to his years making millions of dollars overseas. It was all too much, however, and blew up last year when the judge balked, forcing special counsel David Weiss to scramble to save face. Biden could have been charged with a host of other crimes, including alleged violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, but Justice Department delays ensured all that went forward was a simple gun case.

So, now Hunter is answering to some fairly bogus charges. Next up are the tax charges, which (spoiler alert) he’s very likely to be found guilty of as well, if he doesn’t accept a plea deal first.

(And get ready for Hunter’s conviction to enter the Democrats’ talking point lexicon when they try to put former President Donald Trump in prison.)

The Spectator: CNN’s moderators must ask Biden the tough Hunter question

Blaze News: Hunter Biden: Convicted felon

The fire rises: Unherd: Nigel Farage’s army is on the march

There’s a lot of buzz about how the right swept into power in the European Union’s elections, but it’s not quite true, because the European Parliament doesn’t have much “power” to begin with.

The key thing to watch is the mood of the voters who sent them there, and that mood is angry. They’re angry with unfettered immigration, angry with green policies, angry at the disappearance of their values and cultures, and angry no one in power is listening to them.

They’ll be heard in their upcoming elections, and across the water is no different. British voters are furious at the failure of the Conservative Party to enact Brexit, curtail immigration, lower taxes, or do a darned thing to improve British standards of living. Tom McTague reports:

What a difference a week makes. This time last Saturday, I was watching Nigel Farage’s ragtag rebel army in Great Yarmouth struggling to rouse themselves for one last attack on the fortress of Westminster, somehow knowing in their heart of hearts it was doomed. And yet, here we are, seven days on: the walls protecting the Conservative Party have been breached and Faragistes are streaming forward, the smell of revolution in the air

… [This] week some of the country’s leading pollsters are not simply forecasting the expectedly comfortable Labour victory, but an extinction-level event for the Conservatives — and one caused not by unprecedented support for Labour but an unprecedented implosion in support for the Tories, much of which is moving directly to Reform. …

… “[The Conservative Party] had a wonderful majority and they squandered it.” It’s hard to argue with her. A ruling party elected four times to reduce debt, taxes and immigration has instead overseen an explosion of all three. And at the same time, living standards have barely grown since 2008 and public services have deteriorated. Is it any wonder voters keep pressing a button to blow up the system, and get angry when they discover the dynamite never seems to work?

The Spectator: The night the right swept Europe

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