Donald Trump's Washington is shaping up to look a lot like a boardroom scene from "The Apprentice."The GOP nominee on Tuesday told supporters [in Colorado] that he plans to tell the entrenched guard of Congress "you're fired," continuing his ethics reform push by advocating for term limits on members of Congress that would further "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C.
Ordinarily, by the time a presidential campaign reaches mid-October, the major-party candidates have already decided on the major elements of their platform. But with time running out, Donald Trump finds himself behind in the polls, which has apparently led the Republican to start pushing a new idea.Which is actually an old idea.
Term limits were all the rage in the 1990s, before many started to realize how horrible the idea is, but Trump is nevertheless vowing to "push" for a constitutional amendment -- "push" is the only option available for a president, since the White House has no role in the amendment process -- that would limit House members to 3 terms (for a total of 6 years) and senators to 2 terms (for a total of 12 years).The Republican presidential hopeful, who was against term limits before he was for them, said the policy would help undermine "special-interest dealing" on Capitol Hill.As is often the case, Trump has this backwards.I imagine term-limit proponents mean well, but whether they appreciate the details or not, forcing experienced policymakers out of office, even if their constituents want to re-elect them, has an unintended consequence: inexperienced officials inevitably find themselves more dependent on lobbyists, outside groups, and trade associations, who are only too pleased to lend their expertise developed over the course of decades.In other words, the policy intended to weaken "special-interest dealing" has the opposite effect in practice.It also shifts power away from the legislative branch, which would suddenly have no veteran lawmakers, and towards the executive branch -- another dynamic conservatives are supposed to oppose.But even putting these concerns aside, there's an underlying principle to consider, which we've discussed before: there's simply no reason for the federal government to impose arbitrary constraints on voters' ability to choose their own members of Congress -- constraints that punish popular, experienced officials precisely because they're popular and experienced.We already have term limits. They're called elections. The mechanism for change was built into the Constitution from the outset: voters can evaluate their members of Congress when they run for re-election. If the public is satisfied, those lawmakers stay in office. If not, they're replaced with someone else. The power is where it belongs: in the hands of the electorate.Trump, however, taking a sudden interest in "reform," believes voters' power should be limited by a gimmick Trump himself used to oppose.Why in the world is the GOP nominee doing this? Only Trump knows for sure, but it's likely he's looking for something new to say, and this is what his team came up with. Unfortunately for the Republican candidate, this isn't good advice.