Roy Exum: Sethi Wants Term Limits

Thursday, June 10, 2021 - by Roy Exum

Manny Sethi, the son of immigrants from India, had no experience whatsoever in 2020 when he, a 42-year-old, challenged Bill Hagerty to replace a retiring Lamar Alexander as a Senator from Tennessee. He had little chance as the state’s Republican Party pick. A close knit and entangled group of ancients, the statewide conservatives had Donald Trump’s decree that after years of cronyism, the red state’s carefully cultivated machine “must deliver” Hagerty to help the president drain the Washington swamp. Hagerty won, Trump did not.

Hagerty, Nashville born and Vanderbilt-educated, is about as “plastic” as a lifetime political gladhander you’ll care to meet. Sure enough, the state’s GOP delivered in the primary for Hagerty, giving him 50.8 percent of the Republican vote compared to 32.6 for Sethi. Hagerty, 60, is in his first term but Tennessee’s other senator, the sometimes-volatile Marsha Blackburn, has been in Washington since 2003. She was in the House of Representatives for eight terms and is the fourth year of her first six-year Senate term. In other words, how long is enough for Blackburn, now age 69.

In an op-ed that was published Wednesday in the Nashville Tennessean, the 42-year-old trauma surgeon, who prayerfully is staying in state politics, asked openly …

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By Manny Sethi

My belief: t can and should be.

Travelling all 95 counties for almost two years running for U.S. Senate, I can tell you that Tennesseans are frustrated with the politics of Washington D.C.

Considering the manifest dysfunction of the U.S. Congress, the people are clamoring for congressional term limits and the Congress is predictably ignoring them.

In the past three years, the legislatures of four states – Florida, Alabama, Missouri, and West Virginia – have approved resolutions applying for a national convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution limited to the subject of Congressional term limits.

Obviously, the states to make an end-run around Congress and propose amendments themselves.

According to Article V, if two-thirds of the states apply for such a convention, it must be called, and all states can send delegates. While an Article V convention has no power to alter the Constitution itself, a proposal it approves is sent back for ratification by three-quarters of all the states.

Voters are demanding action. According to a 2020 RMG Research Poll, 78% of likely voters in Tennessee support term limits on Congress, including strong support among Republicans (77%), Democrats (90%), and independents (71%) alike. There is no other issue with such widespread multi-partisan support.

The voters are right, and it is time for career politicians to go.

Term limits discourage cozy relationships and corruption

Term limits create regular, competitive elections in every congressional district. There would be no more establishment incumbents coasting back into office over decades without facing serious electoral competition.

The voters would be back in charge and able to send new faces and ideas to Congress without being blocked by the overwhelming power of money and incumbency that chases away meaningful challengers.

Term limits sever the cozy long-term, and well-funded, relationships between special interests and statistically unbeatable incumbents. The threat of losing influence is why lobbyists are one of the only identifiable subsets of voters who oppose this popular reform.

Yes sirs. let’s go with term limits two.

Term limits discourage corruption. Corruption is highly correlated with tenure as long tenure, particularly without serious electoral competition, encourages hubris and provides greater power and opportunity to manipulate the system for one’s own benefit.

It is sometimes argued that term limits would rob Congress of valuable experience and lead to poor results. This makes some intuitive sense but does not square with the facts on the ground. The U.S. Congress has boatloads of experience, with most of its leaders in their late 70s and 80s and having served for multiple decades. But the results are abysmal!

The truth is there are many kinds of experience voters would like to see in their Congress members. Political experience is just one kind. What about the experience of successful people who have worked as teachers, doctors, business owners or in other professions who live, work, and often struggle under the laws that Congress passes?

Term limits help strike a better balance between political and real-world experience.

Federal elected officials won't act, which is why states must do so

Professional politicians in Washington D.C. will never pass a congressional term limits amendment themselves. However, Tennessee congressmen Mark Green, Tim Burchett, Scott DesJarlais, and Diana Harshbarger should be commended for their support of congressional term limits.

Other individuals embarked on the path of public service to do what the Lord calls us to do and help others, but somewhere along the way in a desire to cling to power many of them become bought and paid for – losing their way and mission to help the very folks that got them elected.

It is up to states like Tennessee to officially apply for the term limits convention and ultimately to help hammer out a consensus proposal at the convention that can pass the high bar of ratification by 38 states.

The next step is for the Tennessee Senate to take up the issue and approve the term limits convention resolution bill when the session resumes. If Senators hear from their constituents between now and then, I believe they will.

Tennesseans can take justified pride in our early and important effort to unify Americans of all political stripes and improve our system of governance. 

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