By Budd Schroeder | Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 12:00 pm
There has been much discussion lately about term limits for politicians in New York. Sounds like a good idea since the reelection rate over the past thirty years has been 98 percent. From an objective viewpoint, the voters must believe that their local representative has been doing a good job and they want to keep him or her in office.
We do have a term limits law. It is called “elections.” If the voters think a politician has been in office too long, all they have to do is vote for the other guy. Sounds easy enough, but habits are tough to break, especially bad ones. The worst bad habit a citizen can have is not voting. It is a good election year when half the eligible people actually go to the polls to cast a ballot. This makes it easy for an incumbent to stay in office.
The incumbent typically needs only twenty-six percent of the potential vote to win the race and with the special interests, like unions, government employees, and those receiving “entitlements,” that number is easily obtained. We have often stated that the two most important events in a politician’s life are election and reelection.
They will cater to the groups that will help them stay where they are and once in the pocket of the special interests, are pretty much dedicated to the status quo. Change and reform are truly on the back burner and seldom even get warm.
Change will begin in the voting booth, and as long as the people will not change the politicians, the chance of change in Albany or Washington is remote at best. In politics, it seems familiarity breeds content. As some people believe: “It is better to vote for the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” Who knows? Perhaps a challenger to the incumbent can be an angel, but never gets the chance to prove it.
We have often said that we have the best government money can buy and that could be the way to get the necessary change. Some years ago there was a movement to limit the amount of money a candidate could spend in any election. We don’t know how this concept died. Probably, the politicians and special interests killed the idea.
Maybe the idea should be revived and make it simple. It would be fairly easy to limit the amount of money a candidate can raise for an election. That would make it difficult for special interests to legally bribe politicians. Limits on spending by individuals, businesses, unions, and organizations can easily be circumvented and are, as witnessed by the McCain-Feingold Law.
However, if a cap was placed on how much a candidate could have in a campaign funds, there would be no incentive for the plethora of fund raisers and contributions by special interest groups. There would have to be a line on campaign spending which could not be legally passed. The campaign would have to be based on issues and substance rather then sound bites and “my opponent is a louse.”
Getting this law passed would be virtually impossible unless there was a huge outcry by the voters. Since they, as a bunch, are pretty apathetic, the opposition will easily win.
The media will oppose it because they make huge amounts of money in advertising revenue during election time. It is like the Christmas season is to merchants.
The special interests will fight it because it can take politicians out of their pockets. Politicians will vote against it because it is a source of extra income for them. The campaign war chest can provide them with extra influence by supporting friends and party. They also can tap into it for “other benefits.”
Do the citizens want change? Do they think term limits are a good idea? In a survey, they say they do. If they really wanted change, they would make it happen at election time. It could be a good bet that many of those who contributed to the survey don’t vote anyway. We got the government we deserve.
Budd Schroeder is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. He is Chairman of the Board of the Shooter's Committee On Political Education (SCOPE) and Vice President of the Judges & Police Conference.
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