I wrote yesterday afternoon about elitist opposition to democratic accountability, but the same phenomenon also has a populist guise in the form of, among other things, term limits endorsed this week by seven of the nine people running for DC’s open at large city council seat.
Term limits for the chief executive make a certain amount of sense in a developing country trying to establish democratic institutions. But despite their popularity, they have no legitimate role in a stable advanced democracy. Voters should keep being represented by the same person until either the voters get sick of the person or the person gets sick of the job. That’s democracy. What happens when you contravene democracy by introducing term limits, is that practical power shifts into the hands of unelected staffers (to the extent that they’re available) and unelected lobbyists (who are always plentiful). Legislating isn’t child’s play, after all, you need to have some familiarity with the issues and the process. Extra power naturally flows to veterans. In a democratic legislature, may of the veterans are veteran legislators—elected officials. In a limited legislature, the only veterans are the staffers and the lobbyists. But that doesn’t change the fact that the veterans have knowledge and knowledge is power.
And at the executive level, who among us is really happy that Al Gore ran in 2000 instead of Bill Clinton? Who did that help?