I am in the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston having a pint of Sam Adams. It is the holidays and I am lucky enough to be back in the Bay State with family and friends. Located in one of the oldest quarters of Beantown, the Green Dragon lies among a maze of narrow, cobblestone streets surrounded by a sea of brick buildings. Originally opening in 1657 it is the epitome of old school.
Not only is it one of the oldest establishments in our country, historically it is also one of the most important. Within a musket’s shot of the Boston Massacre, it was in this tavern that many of our Founding Fathers planned and plotted the overthrow of the tyranny and taxation from our friends in Britain. Dubbed “the headquarters” of the Revolution by luminaries like Sam Adams, Daniel Webster and Paul Revere, the Green Dragon certainly spawned its share of revolutionary ideas. But despite the brilliance of the ideas hatched in this haven and in other hotbeds of resistance, there is one thing our Founding Fathers forgot.
I don’t know if it’s the spirits of the souls that once stood and sucked down suds in this very spot, but I too am not content with how things are run in our country. With Congress failing to act as we approach the fiscal cliff my dissatisfaction continues to grow and I cannot help but keep coming back to an idea that our Founding Fathers never foresaw. But before anyone gets too excited and thinks I’m some sort of subversive they should relax. What I’m talking about is not so revolutionary.
Despite the brilliance the Founding Fathers endowed in our Constitution and the ensuing amendments there is one thing they failed to foresee. They did not know what would happen with our highest legislators. They did not see the growth of career politicians. They did not know how things could change. And while many may think that there are flaws in our amendments and other parts of the Constitution, I think the biggest problem is what wasn’t written in those documents.
I’m talking about term limits for our elected officials in Congress. They are the most powerful people in the country yet they can stay in office for an infinite amount of time. Presidents may come and go but people can say in Congress for decades and decades. For all brewers, patriots and imbibers alike, this must be almost inconceivable.
That’s because they were worried about kings and not their understudies. They never foresaw what would happen in a democratic society. After George Washington led by example and stepped down after two terms the law was laid. Spend a couple of years and then go back home.
All our presidents followed this until FDR stuck around for three terms during WWII. Because of that we enacted the 22nd Amendment in 1951. It placed term limits on our president. It was a turning point for the country and in the last 70 years folks have learned that term limits are a good thing. Since then term limits have been enacted for just about every elected office in this country. It doesn’t matter if you’re president, governor, mayor or dog catcher, chances are you’ve got a term limit if you have been elected.
Somehow our elected officials in Congress have slipped away from term limits. They can stay as long as they want. Unlike prom kings and queens who fade into the background, they just won’t go away. They stick around for as long as they are re-relected. In the House of Representatives they serve a two-year term and in the Senate they stay for eight. But it doesn’t matter how often they face re-election because neither face term limits.
There’s a reason we keep on facing the same problems over and over again. While presidents come and go, Congress remains the same. It is the same folks and faces year after year. They are the kings of today. Whether it’s 10, 20 or 30 years, it does not matter. They stick around as long as they can. Why wouldn’t they? There is no better place to go. It is one of the most elite clubs in the world, especially the Senate. You’re in for eight years.
Even though they were revolutionary thinkers they did not think of every change that could come. They never knew that folks would become so entrenched and dig in so deep into D.C.
For some reason the Founding Fathers never placed term limits on the top of their agenda. They were probably just happy enough to escape the influence of the King of England. Even though term limits seem like a fundamental aspect of democracy, they somehow were left out by our Founding Fathers. Perhaps, ironically, term limits are an idea that is not so revolutionary.
Contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.