Dawud Walid: With Dingell’s retirement, time to talk term limits


FEB 25, 2014, 12:30 PM 

Dawud Walid: WIth Dingell’s retirement, time to talk term limits


The recent announcement of Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell’s impending retirement brings to mind the need for national debate on the merits for and against term limits for our Senators and Congressmen.

Dingell, who took over his father’s seat in 1955, indeed is a living legend. He’s served with distinction as the longest serving member of Congress in the history of our nation. He played a significant role in the introduction and passage of landmark legislation that has helped shape contemporary America, the most important being the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unlike many politicians, his career has never been marred by scandal or highly objectionable rhetoric, save a racially loaded comment in 1982 blaming the falling fortunes of the Big Three on “the little yellow men,” meaning the Japanese. I’d say that’s a heck of a run.

Nonetheless, I still believe that we need term limits for Congressmen.

As much as Washington needs politicians with principles, it also needs persons that bring forth new ideas and are not beholden to the politician establishment. I’m not saying that Dingell was controlled by special interests, but there are far too many on the Hill, who have served too long, who are.

Moreover, the American political project is based upon the idea that our nation should have fresh political voices and that the people should not feel beholden to political dynasties or political family machines. Hence, President George Washington stepped down voluntarily after serving two terms out of not wanting to appear as he was like a new king. After President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected for four terms, the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951 under President Harry Truman to make sure that we’d have no such  executive dynasties or de facto kingships in the White House.

Just last year, Rep. Matt Salomon, R-Ariz., proposed a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on federal lawmakers. It went nowhere, as other such proposals have not gone far in the recent past.

Given that Congress has one of the worst approval ratings in our lifetime and is unable to get much done, partly due to due some career politicians in D.C., Dingell’s retirement is an opportune time to reinvigorate a national discussion on term limits in Congress. As much as I respect the works of Dingell, I long for the day when we don’t see federal lawmakers serving in the House past two decades.

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