One year from now we will know who has been chosen to become the 44th president of the United States. With the present eight candidates on the Republican side and eight candidates on the Democratic side, we can expect to be exhausted from campaigns, television commercials, fund-raising letters, bumper stickers and signs as well as events, speeches and debates over the next year. The current consensus of political speculation is that the Republican and Democratic candidates will be substantially determined by early February after primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Then we must endure the battle of the next nine months until the general election on November 4th.
To a large degree, our political system seems to work. But, does it? We successfully change leadership every four or eight years in a democratic process without violence. This year is especially unique because we do not have a candidate who has been serving as vice president to a sitting president that might be expected to succeed that president. That is why we have so many candidates vying for the nominations this year.
It would be incredibly disconcerting if our next president were chosen by the Supreme Court as happened eight years ago. It should be equally troublesome that the Electoral College system causes campaigns to be focused upon a limited number of states with a majority of electors while a significant majority of states are virtually ignored.
Furthermore, the 22nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution setting a term limitation on anyone holding the office of President of the United States to no more than two terms or eight years in office has given us lame duck presidents practically the moment they are re-elected to a second term. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all became lame duck leaders upon being sworn in for their second terms.
In the history of the United States, only one person has been elected to serve more than two terms. That president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served from 1933 to 1945. The 22nd Amendment was passed by Congress in 1947 and ratified by the requisite number of states by February 27, 1951.
Since that time, President Eisenhower expressed his strong opposition to term limits. He was quoted saying, “The United States ought to be able to choose for its president anybody it wants, regardless of the number of terms he has served.”
President Reagan was also public in his support for repealing the Amendment. While President Clinton was opposed to repealing the Amendment, he supported modifying it to prohibit former presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms…permitting them to seek election after an intervening term.
In essence, the 22nd Amendment has weakened the second term president’s power and influence. President Bush has become weak and ineffective. Even he admitted his weakness after winning his second term, telling the media, “I am going to come out strong after my swearing-in. We have to move quickly, because after that I’ll be quacking like a duck.”
Bush’s recent approval ratings of 33 percent are further evidence that he was correct and that his effectiveness has been severely compromised. While some would say that his ratings are from his own ineptitude, I would argue that his effectiveness is substantially diminished because of the 22nd Amendment. Neither he nor members of Congress view these waning years of his presidency as a time for making change.
The United States needs capable, qualified, intelligent and affable leaders who can effectively communicate the ambitions and interests of our country to our citizens, our allies and our enemies. We need strong, competent leaders who are not weakened by the 22nd Amendment of our Constitution. We cannot afford weak leadership in these increasingly trying economic and military times.
Our future is too important.