Heading into the home stretch, a big question about the general election isn’t Trump vs. Biden, red vs. blue or even square legislative districts vs. long, snaky ones.
Is there anyone out there who hasn’t made up his or her mind? If you read all the commentary on social media, it seems the answer is no.
Quite possibly, one issue remains relatively untilled this year amid a field of campaign advertising and partisan rhetoric. In Missouri, Constitutional Amendment 1 would limit elected officials to two terms — a total of eight years — for the state offices of lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor and attorney general. The two other elected statewide offices — governor and treasurer — already are limited to two terms.
Amendment 1, unlike the redistricting measure known as Amendment 3, has flown under the radar during a heated election season. In hindsight, it is surprising that Missouri would have enacted term limits for both chambers of the Legislature and one-third of statewide offices while leaving the other four positions open to career politicians. Amendment 1, championed by state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer during the legislation session, would correct this inconsistency.
A purist might say that Missouri citizens lose out when elected officials aren’t able to gain experience over time. This ignores the reality that each office is staffed with lawyers, accountants, technocrats and experts who understand the minutia of state government and keep the wheels running smoothly, no matter who is elected. If the elected officeholder can’t figure it out in eight years, it’s quite possible we’ve sent the wrong person to Jefferson City, anyway.
Besides, a particularly ambitious politician still could manage 64 years in public service under these limits, provided voters sent them to the House, Senate and every statewide office one after the other. For a while, it looked as if Jay Nixon would try to serve 64 years as attorney general.
The best argument in favor of term limits is that they eliminate something the public has witnessed all too often: politicians becoming entrenched, building more influence and just waiting and waiting for the best opportunity to seek a run for a higher office. Money and power become either a corrupting or an ossifying phenomenon. Either way, the electorate is not especially well-served.
A little churn at the top isn’t a bad thing, nor is a return to the private sector after the elected official has spent a term or two in office. Voters, who have a lot to think about this year, should consider voting “yes” on Amendment 1.