Saturday Night Live debuted for its new season on October 3, and despite the parody of Tuesday’s presidential debate, Megan thee Stallion’s potent performance, and condemnation of Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron, there was one moment that stood out to me. In his opening monologue, host Chris Rock touched on some of our country’s most pressing social and political issues, including the President’s COVID-19 diagnosis and Washington politics. Lamenting Congress’s inaction, he proposed an idea that I’ve often heard before: implementing congressional term limits.
When posing this argument, people often look to the President’s office, the term limit being two with the ratification of the 22nd amendment after 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt served from 1933 until his death in 1945. While I understand the sentiment, Americans must look at the magnitude of the executive branch, and why the powers of the Presidency being vested in one individual for an unlimited time span could prove deleterious to our democracy. When the Founding Fathers set out to craft our nation, they insisted on creating a balance of power amongst the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches of government, to prevent a power monopoly and corruption. Within these branches, we have checks and balances, like impeachment, vetoes, and judicial review, to prevent one from going rogue and harming the others.
The power instilled in 1/100 US Senators or 1/435 US Representatives does not equate to that of the leader of the executive branch, and to juxtapose the two is constitutionally inaccurate. These individuals are sent to Washington to represent the will of the people in their individual state or congressional district, rather than the entirety of the United States. Forcing those who’ve spent their lives introducing legislation that benefits their communities and greater nation to quantify their service would result in the loss of champions of Civil Rights and equality like Elijah Cummings and John Lewis. These individuals served as mentors to the next generation of congresspeople, and banning them would result in a legislative branch filled with novices.
In the same vein, I’ve witnessed discourse about governmental salary reduction as a viable deterrent for career politicians. This again fails to see the long term implications of the action, and would create a larger problem than the initial one. With lowered salaries, the average American wouldn’t be able to afford running for office, which would result in an oligarchical ruling class composed solely of the financially astute. Only the ultra-wealthy would hold office, which would be unrepresentative of the general population. Instead of making these unlikely propositions, we should use our disappointment with our politicians as a catalyst for political action. If these past months have taught us anything, it is that strength in numbers is a force to be reckoned with and that in order to keep their jobs, our elected officials must adhere to the will of the people. To accomplish this, we should focus on super PACS and lobbyists who buy out our politicians, organizing voter registration drives and literacy campaigns to promote awareness in our communities, and of course, protesting.