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The limits of term limits

It’s certainly dispiriting to see democracy waterboarded by the people we elect or appoint to safeguard it for us, whether it’s through torture memos, secret evesdropping or the vast corporate porkapalooza that is Congress. Sadly, we’ve come to expect that of politicians. Which is why term limits are so appealing: We enshrine our distrust into a self-regulating mechanism that’ll throw the bums out before they can become totally corrupt. Thus, last week, 21 candidates were tossed off Nevada ballots.

But there was already a term-limiting function hardwired into democracy: voting. If enough of us felt someone was doing a sucky job, we could term-limit the SOB on Election Day. Or, if he showed promise, keep him in place, let him season into a leader.

Of course, that would require vigilance, knowledge and judgment on the part of we the people—that is, active citizenship. Apparently, that’s a lot to ask, and so we have the sad sight of democracy on autopilot, the 12-year term limit doing our duty for us. And in those races altered by term limits, who’ll decide what candidates run in the general election? Each party’s central committee. That is, powerbrokers. Is that really what we wanted?

Who else should have term limits? Prostitutes. Lobbyists. John Barr. Out-of-step libertarian newspaper editors. Lawyers who advertise. Ah, hell: lawyers. UNLV football coaches. Have we mentioned lobbyists? Weathercasters who put their dogs on the air. Ineffectual medical-board members. Frank Marino. Radio programmers.

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