Philip Blumel: How are you going to celebrate Term Limits Day? Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement for the week of February 11, 2019.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: As February 27 draws near, it’s time to start thinking about Term Limits Day. There’s a lot to celebrate this year with resolutions moving at both the federal and the state level. Politicians need to see support for this idea everywhere they go, so do journalists, and of course, so do our neighbors. Your next door neighbors support term limits also, they just don’t know what they can do about it. US Term Limits executive director Nick Tomboulides has some ideas for them, plus some inspiring news. Hey, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Greetings and salutations, Phil.
Philip Blumel: Alright, this week I noticed that we got another senator on the federal bill. The US Term Limits Amendment bill has added Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky as our latest co-sponsor.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s exciting.
Philip Blumel: We sort of took a step backwards though because Tim Scott, who we reported in last weeks podcast as a co-sponsor actually hasn’t co-sponsored it, at least not yet. There was a mistake made in the reporting, not by us, but by the government itself that when former governor Rick Scott jumped on the bill, it was accidentally reported by the Senate that Tim Scott was the one who jumped on the bill. So they fixed that. So Rick Scott is indeed, the Florida senator is indeed, a co-sponsor, and Tim Scott in South Carolina is not yet.
Nick Tomboulides: A mistake made by the government? Well I am in the state of stunned disbelief at that revelation. Yeah, so-
Philip Blumel: With all that experience, how could that be? I don’t know.
Nick Tomboulides: Rick Scott asked Senator Cruz’s office to get on the Congressional term limits resolution and the Senate, Senate joint resolution one. Senator Cruz’s office put in that request, and they put the wrong Scott on there. They put Tim Scott instead of Rick. Then they took Tim off. The bill went Scott free for a little while, and finally, they put Rick Scott on. But we can’t let Tim Scott off the hook. I mean, we need to call this guy and be like, “Hey, what’s going on man? You signed the Term Limits Pledge. You should be on that bill too.”
Philip Blumel: He did.
Nick Tomboulides: There should really be two Scott’s on the bill.
Philip Blumel: South Carolina. So that’s 10 members of the Senate that are on the bill, 10% of the Senate. Not too shabby, and in the House, there’s now 32 co-sponsors of the Term Limits Amendment bill. Five are added this last week since the last podcast, and they were Tim Burchett in Tennessee, Daniel Meuser in Pennsylvania, Brian Mast in Florida, Gregory Steube in Florida, and Mike Johnson in Louisiana. So more and more members of the House are jumping on the bill. It’s moving.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s a positive sign. We’re not quite at 10% of the House, yet, but we’re getting there, and we certainly have enough pledge signers to get there.
Philip Blumel: Of course, we know that the Congress is very unlikely to pass this resolution with two-thirds, as required for a Constitutional Amendment without enormous leverage. So the real news, I think, is going on in the states. Nick, what happened this week?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, Doug Bandow actually had an article in National Review this week about Congressional term limits, but Doug said getting Congress to vote for term limits on itself is like getting demons to vote to close down hell. It’s just very, very unlikely. Not likely to happen, absent some kind of external pressure. That’s what the Term Limits Convention is all about. I’d say action is the theme of this week for the Term Limits Convention. You know, this is a movement of continuous progress.
Philip Blumel: That’s what I like to hear.
Nick Tomboulides: People are demanding term limits all across the land, and we actually had two very important hearings this week. The first one was in New Hampshire. We had a hearing on Wednesday in the House, State, and Federal Relations Committee of the New Hampshire state House. Just to give you some context, New Hampshire’s legislature is as grass roots as it gets. There are over 400 members of the State House. They’re sort of a motley crew. They really do look like a citizen legislature in terms of the diversity that they have.
Nick Tomboulides: So it was a tough task to get in touch with the members of this committee and get in touch with that many people in the legislature, but Ken Quinn, Northeast Regional Director of USTL was up to the job. He got 3,300 total messages in to the committee members in support of the Term Limits Convention. At the hearing on Wednesday, nearly all the testimony was on our side. We had an ex-legislature come out and speak in favor. They did not take a vote. This committee will be reconvening on Wednesday to take the vote, but we’re feeling optimistic about it. And in New Hampshire, the leadership tend to follow the committee’s lead. So a positive recommendation from this committee will really kick us off with a bang there.
Philip Blumel: Great. What else? We had some movement in Iowa, which I didn’t expect.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes.
Philip Blumel: What happened there?
Nick Tomboulides: Well Ken Quinn, who I just mentioned, was actually multitasking. As Regional Director of US Term Limits, this guy is incredible. I’ve never seen Ken and Superman in the same place at the same time. Senate joint resolution 11, introduced by Senator Zach Whiting in Iowa, it turns out it had just been scheduled with only 24 hours notice. So we did not know this hearing was coming up. He called into the committee on Thursday, and via speakerphone, made such a good case for term limits that the senators voted with him, two to one.
Philip Blumel: Fantastic.
Nick Tomboulides: Two to one.
Philip Blumel: Fantastic.
Nick Tomboulides: So it was a big win for term limits.
Philip Blumel: That is great.
Nick Tomboulides: And now the bill is advancing to the next stage. Actually, one of the senators on the sub-committee is on the full committee for state government, and he voted with us, Senator Smith. So we’re gonna monitor that and let you know where it goes, but a very, very positive development coming from Iowa.
Philip Blumel: Sure it is. You know, not only did we not know that this hearing was gonna be held, but we also did not choose Iowa as a target state. We figured there would be some copycat states that jumped on board even without our prompting, and we saw this in the early 90’s with the initiatives that were on the ballot all across the country in that once it was rolling and once these initiatives were getting on the ballot and being voted in by the voters with large majorities calling for tournaments on states individual Congressional delegations that there’d be copycat states that we didn’t … We weren’t even the ones prompting it, and that happened then. And I didn’t expect it to start happening this early now ’til we got more states in the bag, but it looks like it’s already happening.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and it’s really cool because you see all these states kind of getting swept up in the national momentum of term limits. They see that this issue is everywhere. People are talking about it. Our organization is leading the charge on a grass roots movement, and it’s inspiring people to take action.
Philip Blumel: Former Senator Jim DeMint served six years in the US House and then eight years in the US Senate before resigning to take a position in the private sector where he felt like he could be more effective. In Congress, DeMint was an active advocate of term limits. For example, DeMint was the chief [inaudible 00:07:21] sponsor of the US Term Limits Amendment and even called for a non-binding Senate vote on term limits in 2012. Senators voted it down 75 to 24. Outside of Congress, he continues to advocate for term limits and specifically, calling for states to apply for an amendment proposing convention under Article 5 of the Constitution in order to enact term limits, a balanced budget, and other reforms.
Philip Blumel: Here Jim DeMint makes his case at www.prageruniversity.com.
Jim DeMint: The federal government has become a lumbering giant. With each passing year it gets bigger and scarier. In 1965, Washington was 761 billion dollars big. In 2016, it was three and a half trillion, five times the size. If the government spent only the money it collected in taxes, that would be one thing, but it always spends more, which is why we’re 20 trillion dollars in debt. That’s 13 zeros, count ’em, 13. But the crazy spending isn’t even the worst of it. Washington is involved in every part of our lives. Think about anything you do, from driving your car to buying your groceries to mowing your lawn. Whatever it is, your education, your job, your health, the government has its hands on your shoulder, if not on your throat.
Jim DeMint: As a Congressman and Senator for 14 years, I know this only too well. So how do we cut this giant down to size? Is it even possible? Yes, and the amazing thing is the answer is right in front of us. The founding fathers, in their wisdom, foresaw the situation we find ourselves in today. They wrote into the Constitution a way to repair Washington, not from the inside, because that will never happen, but from the outside, where it might.
Jim DeMint: It’s right there in Article 5. Most people are familiar with the first part, the Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this constitution. All 27 amendments we have now started this way, but is this the only way to amend the constitution? Well, let’s read the next clause. It says that Congress, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states shall call a convention for proposing amendments. Did you catch that? Congress must call a convention to amend the Constitution if two-thirds of the states, that’s 34 states, demand it.
Jim DeMint: The time has come to demand it. The time has come to propose amendments that will restore meaningful limits on federal power and authority. The time has come for a convention of states, which means it’s a whole lot closer to the hands of the people.
Philip Blumel: Anything else from the states?
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, there was another big one, and this one, I actually got to get my hands dirty personally. So it was kind of a term limits trifecta this week for committees. We had three committee hearings, and the one I attended was in Tallahassee, capital of Florida. It was to speak on behalf of a bill that, if it gets approved, would amend the Florida constitution to create eight year term limits for all school board members. I was nervous because when I walked into the room, I immediately noticed that many of the most powerful and well paid lobbyists in Florida were there to oppose us.
Nick Tomboulides: I just wanted to point out, I think it fascinating that the folks in this room who have come out in opposition to term limits all seem to be lobbyists. I don’t really think that is a coincidence. I think term limits actually [inaudible 00:11:05] the effect of lobbyists by bringing in a new crop of officials on a regular basis, and not allowing lobbyists to hold control over one incumbent for a very long time. So I think there’s an inherent conflict of interest in having so many lobbyists come up and oppose term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: And there’s two things that I just wanted to note. I did not hear a single example of a local, small community that has ever voted down any form of term limits. In fact, that example really doesn’t exist. Term limits pass everywhere they’re on the ballot. I live in a city of about 15,000 people. We have term limits on our city council. There are cities of about five thousand people that have term limits on their councils, and it’s almost like insulting to suggest that a community is too small to have the talent pool to find two or three people to stand for a school board election every two years.
Nick Tomboulides: I think they can certainly do that, and we’ll definitely enrich the diversity of our government. With respect to the debate on eight versus 12, just like to remind you a little bit of history. In 2005, the Florida legislature actually placed on the statewide ballot a Constitutional amendment that would have lengthened the term limits for state legislature for you folks from eight to 12 years, and the public outcry against that measure was so severe that the legislature was actually forced to revoke it from the ballot in 2006 before it could get on.
Nick Tomboulides: So eight year term limits are very, very popular in Florida. Every law that’s been initiated by the citizens here is for eight years, and that’s why I think you should go with that for school boards. And when people ask, “Well, why eight years?” Well, look at the jobs that already have an eight year term limit. The governor has an eight year term limit. The cabinet has an eight year term limit. State legislators, countless local positions, and the president of the United States has an eight year term limit.
Nick Tomboulides: If any school board members believe that they need more time to learn their jobs than the leader of the free world, than frankly, they’re in the wrong profession, and they should resign. No amount of terms will fix that. Here in Florida, eight year term limits have been the rising tide that lifts all boats. We’re the most fiscally sound state in America. We’ve left behind the era of lawyers and lobbyists, cooking up policies in smoke filled rooms. We now have a citizen legislature that reflects the diversity of our people.
Nick Tomboulides: Since term limits passed, we’ve elected more farmers, more teachers, more doctors, more business people, more women and more African Americans. This is what John Adams described when he said, “A legislature should be an exact portrait of the people. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them.” All of you up here should really pat yourselves on the back because you are what the founders envisioned for our country, citizen legislature. Now it’s time to apply the same wisdom to school boards. Governor Desantis has said school boards suffer from the same untamed incumbency that paralyzes Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: He’s right. School board incumbents have worst turnover than the Soviet Politburo. Their reelection rates exceed 80%, and nearly half of them run unopposed, meaning many voters don’t even have the power to dethrone their incumbent. Education is too important to be entrusted to cynical career politicians. We need statesmen and stateswomen with a sense of urgency who can change the system before it changes them.
Nick Tomboulides: So if you wanna enrich our democracy, level the playing field, get fresh faces and ideas, we need eight year term limits for school boards. Thank you.
Speaker 3: Thank you.
Nick Tomboulides: So a lobbyist came out to derail us, but they failed miserably because the bill passed the committee unanimously. 15 votes for school board term limits, zero votes against us. Legislatures-
Philip Blumel: Bipartisan of course.
Nick Tomboulides: Totally bipartisan vote. So legislatures in Florida listen to the people over the swamp monsters.
Stacey Selleck: Mark your calendars. February 27th is National Term Limits Days, and it’s less than a month away. With a renewed push to impose term limits on the US Congress, a new national day has emerged from the term limits movement. The idea is simple enough. On February 27th each year, everyone is encouraged to make a show of public support for term limits. Remind the politicians that our support is not passive. If term limits are good enough for the president, they’re good enough for Congress. You probably already know that the battle for term limits is taking place on two major fronts simultaneously, in Congress and in the states.
Stacey Selleck: Here are some ideas for February 27th Term Limits Day activism. Post a term limits sign in your yard. You can make one of your own, or purchase one from our store at termlimits.com/shop. Another thing you can do is hang a pro-term limits banner over a busy overpass. Maybe something like Happy Term Limits Day February 27th. You can also organize a sign wave at a busy intersection. Grab a couple of friends and make some homemade signs that say, “Honk if you love term limits.” And enjoy the public support you’ll hear from passers-by.
Stacey Selleck: Use Term Limits Day as your annual reminder to contact your state and local representatives on this issue. Go to termlimits.com/legislators, and use our easy peasy online tool to contact both your federal senators and your US House Rep. Wish them a happy Term Limits Day, and finally, you can take a selfie holding a Happy Term Limits Days sign and post it on your social media. Make sure you use the hashtag, #termlimitsday.
Stacey Selleck: Because February 27th is less than a month away, we ask that you start preparing your actions now so that you’re ready at least a week before. That’s why we’re offering you 10% off all items in our term limits store if you purchase before February 15th at termlimits.com/shop. Whatever you decide to do, send pictures to Term Limits Day at termlimits.com, and it will be shared with hundreds of thousands of fellow term limit supporters just like you. What has started as a day of action, may well serve as an annual celebration of the people’s victory. You can make history by saying you were our February 27th Term Limits Day founder.
Philip Blumel: Is democracy in retreat? The watchdog group Freedom House thinks so. ‘Freedom in The World’ is Freedom House’s flagship annual report, assessing the condition of political rights and similarities around the world. It’s composed of numerical ratings and descriptive texts for 195 countries and 14 territories. ‘Freedom of The World’ has been published since 1973 and has become one of the most well known report of its kind. In the 2019 edition, ‘Freedom of The World’ points to the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. According to the authors, the reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region from longstanding democracies like the United States to consolidated authoritarian regimes like China and Russia.
Philip Blumel: The overall loses are still shallow compared to the great gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous. Democracy is in retreat. Democratic norms such as free and fair elections and free expression are being shattered. The report sites evidence around the world including governments that find ways to control election results while sustaining the veneer and the mechanics of competitive balloting. Freedom House’s score for elections, for instance, have declined at twice the rate of other freedom indicators globally over the last three years.
Philip Blumel: Specifically, “The principle of term limits for executives, which have a long providence in democracies and spread around the world after the end of the Cold War is weakening.” According to Freedom House’s data, leaders in 34 countries have tried to revise term limits, and have been successful 31 times since the 13 year global decline began. A tax on term limits have been especially prominent in Africa, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union.
Philip Blumel: Challenging this trend, and perhaps in reaction to it, in the United States the term limits movement is resurgent and continues to bring competitive elections and regular rotation in office to new jurisdictions in every election cycle. Progress is also being made at the national level, where states are calling for a national amendment proposing convention to limit terms and empower voters.
Philip Blumel: If we win, future editions of ‘Freedom in The World’ might tell the story of how the United States, by example, re-energized democracy across the globe. Let’s win and find out.
Philip Blumel: Nick, what do you plan on doing for Term Limits Day?
Nick Tomboulides: I’m organizing several sign waves in my community. I’ve been speaking out locally about Term Limits Day trying to gin up some enthusiasm. A lot of people don’t even know of the history of the Presidential Term Limits Amendment. So it’s been great to talk about how it was proposed and ratified in 1951, but what I’ve been doing is distributing signs to people in my community and on Term Limits Day, right around rush hour, we’re gonna to the busiest intersection in town, and we’re gonna wave signs and try to just raise awareness for term limits to people who are passing by.
Nick Tomboulides: One thing that’s important about Term Limits Day, you don’t have to overthink it. It could be very simple. It could be very grass roots. Anything you do to try to get the word out in your community is a step forward.
Philip Blumel: Everyone should try to make some public show of support, no matter how simple, on that day, which is February 27th. I remember one time that Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, our latest co-sponsor of the Senate US Term Limits Amendment bill, he once told me that you have to have pressure being applied to Congress from all angles, and he said that the president is a very important one. We need pressure from the people. On Term Limits Day we can show that publicly. We need pressure from the states with passing these term limits convention bills, and we need pressure from the president of the United States banging his fist on the pulpit and saying, “Let’s get down to business, Congress. You know why the people want this. This is for the benefit of the country. Let’s get it done.”
Philip Blumel: When you have that pressure coming from all sides like this, that’s when Congress can be forced to act. If a president makes term limits a key issue in his campaign, and a key issue of his presidency, 100 years from now when kids are reading their history books in school, the number one thing that’s gonna be mentioned is gonna be that this is the president that got us term limits on the Congress.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us. This week’s mission, should you decide to accept it, decide how you’re going to show support for term limits on February 27th and take the necessary steps now to be ready. This might be as simple as ordering a t-shirt from termlimits.com/store, or reaching out to your areas term limits coordinator and asking for a yard sign. Whatever you’re going to do, please prepare now before it’s too late, and feel free to contact us to discuss any ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to this podcast. You can use the Apple podcast app, Stitcher, or Google Play, or please rate and review us at iTunes.
Philip Blumell: Keep the pressure on. Over 80% of America wants term limits. The politicians can only triumph if good men and women do nothing. We’ll be back next week.
Speaker 1: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms Podcast.
Nick Tomboulides: Oh my God. I didn’t realize an “All Politicians Suck” sign is for sale on our website. Oh my God.
Philip Blumel: It is. I’m sorry. It wasn’t my idea, but I didn’t take it down.
Nick Tomboulides: You didn’t stop it.
Philip Blumell: I saw it, and I didn’t stop it from occurring. I thought about it.
Nick Tomboulides: By the way, when we say all politicians suck, our tongues are firmly planted inside of our cheeks.
Philip Blumel: Yes, we have a lot of friends who are politicians. A lot of people working very hard on trying to help us get term limits, term limits conventions, bills passed, and et cetera, but yeah, somehow it’s still funny, isn’t it?
Nick Tomboulides: Wow.
MUSIC CREDITS – Full versions of the music sampled during this podcast may be purchased via iTunes at the following links :
The Passenger” by Iggy Pop, “People Have The Power” by Patti Smith, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by DeVo, “Swordfishtrombones” by Tom Waits
The “No Uncertain Terms” podcast is produced by Duke Decter for U.S. Term Limits
Executive Producer Philip Blumel (President, U.S. Term Limits)