Denver Post Letter to Editor

Sunday, March 22, 1998 

Limits for Congress

Re: the March 1 Sue O’Brien column “Limiting terms also limits voters”:

The controversy over Scott Mclnnis breaking his promise to limit his congressional tenure flushes out media bias against term limits. Columnists have resorted to the standard and disproven anti-term limits claims as always. Unfortunately for opponents, voters remain unconvinced by the “parade of horrors.”

Because state, local and presidential term limits are a reality, the issue in 1998 condenses to: Should Congress be the lone political body in America without term limits? A related question is: To what extent in a constitutional republic should the will of the people be frustrated by the political establishment, when it has a clear conflict of interest?

Voter turnout trends prove that citizens know that elections are increasingly irrelevant. Why was it called a revolution in 1994 when congressional turnover shot up from 2 percent to 7 percent? Turnover for the Colorado Legislature is similar. The two political parties have colluded to marginalize their respective risks during elections. Because “safe seats” are the norm, term limits have brought competition to the election process.

Contrary to common assertion, citizens are protective of local limits. Over 95 percent of local politicians have accepted constitutionally defined limits. Of proposed changes referred to voters, 57 percent have been rejected outright. Of the “opt- out” elections approved, most were modifications, not rejections. Most of the rejections have occurred in tiny governments; which is consistent with the opt-out notion in the 1994 law.

At the core, term limits are about changing the culture of careerism in politics and restoring representative democracy. Those who defend the status quo deny the reality of a failed and corrupt pork barrel government by an elite class untouchable by elections.

Politicians know they can win elections by ‘pretending” to support term limits. They have cultivated to a fine art the distinction between lies and deceit. In 1998, the aim of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition is to make it more difficult for then to “pretend.” Politicians shouldn’t (as the column stated) be able to “have it both ways.”

DENNIS POLHILL, Co-ChairmanColorado Term Limits CoalitionLakewood