Rense Johnson – Term Limits Patriot
If a Term Limits Hall of Fame is ever built, it won’t feature marble busts of politicians. The real heroes of this movement are Americans from all walks of life who stood up to the status quo and fought tirelessly to change it.
One of those heroes was Rense Johnson (1924-2015). A World War II veteran and Petroleum Landman, Rense formed the group Citizens for Term Limits in Louisiana in the 1990s. When Rense set out to enact term limits for Louisiana state legislators, he faced a challenge that had never been overcome before: Rense needed Louisiana lawmakers to vote for term limits on themselves!
Of course, a bunch of slippery politicians was no match for a man who had seen far worse as a member of America’s greatest generation. Rense and his volunteers began a campaign of intense and unrelenting personal lobbying of state lawmakers. They turned up the heat with grassroots pressure in each member’s individual district.
After being given a 15 percent chance of success at the beginning, Rense’s group achieved the impossible. They got the Louisiana State Legislature to put term limits on the ballot, where it subsequently passed with 76 percent of the vote. Politicians in Louisiana remain term-limited today thanks to this effort.
In Rense’s own words, this is how he did it:
- A relatively small group of people who believe in the importance of what they are doing can have a disproportionate impact on events — a form of leverage, if you will.
- This is magnified when strong public opinion supports the objective.
- Public sentiment must nevertheless be mobilized, which is why the grassroots organization is so important. Politicians respond to pressure from back home.
- The imminence of an election works wonders in affecting legislators’ attitudes, especially when they know there will be those who will be ready and willing to remind their constituents of the error of their ways. In this case many (not all) voted to limit their own terms only because the alternative appeared to be even more distasteful.
- Intense personal lobbying of legislators coupled with intense grassroots pressure is almost impossible to resist when properly applied.
- Comity and good manners are as important when one is lobbying as in any other situation — perhaps more so. When one is trying to persuade a legislator to change his vote, confrontational tactics work against the objective.
At U.S. Term Limits, we apply Rense’s Rules every day in our campaign to enact term limits on Congress.
When Rense passed away in 2015, he had still been actively managing Citizens for Term Limits, which included a website – TermLimits.com. After his passing, his family generously donated this domain name to U.S. Term Limits so that we could continue to build on his legacy of service.
We are grateful to Rense and his entire family for their contributions to this movement.