Nick Tomboulides: I got 99 problems and a Mitch ain’t one. Mitch McConnell, that is. I’m Nick Tomboulides and this is the No Uncertain Terms Podcast for the week of September 27th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: You sanctuary from partisan politics.
Nick Tomboulides: Way back, on November 9th, 2016, Donald Trump’s presidential victory was not even 24 hours old and Trump, to his credit at the time, had called for term limits on Congress. Even Barack Obama, his predecessor, agreed but swamp monster extraordinaire Mitch McConnell was having none of it. Mitch was quoted on that day as saying, “We have term limits and they’re called elections.” But is that true? Do we really have term limits and are they really called elections? Does that have any merit whatsoever? Can an average American just run against an incumbent and win? Today, we explore that question on No Uncertain Terms.
Nick Tomboulides: So there are certain things in life that are constantly expanding: The universe, my waist line, because I eat at Olive Garden a lot, and the power of political incumbents. I wanna share with you some data that you are probably not familiar with because this is not something we learn in civics class, although we certainly should, and this data tells us how many citizens does each politician in America represent. Do you know? It really depends on the politician, right? Suppose we are talking about the mayor of a very small city. Here in Florida, we have a city called Lake Buena Vista. If you’ve ever been charged $15 for a churro, that is to say if you’ve ever been to Disney World, then you’ve probably been there because Disney is located in this city. But Lake Buena Vista only has 10 full-time residents. Now, it’s still a city with a mayor and a city council but there are only 10 people who live there.
Nick Tomboulides: That means the mayor represents 10 people, which gives everyone who lives in that city more of a voice. They have more access to the mayor. They have electoral power because every vote means much more. They can run for mayor themselves without needing to spend a lot of money. You don’t need to spend any money, you just need to go knock on nine doors. So in a city that small where one politician is representing 10 people, we would call that a situation where the representation is not diluted at all. We can debate whether a city that small should even have a government or not, but what we can’t debate is those people are represented. They have functioning democracy and they have functioning elections because they have access to their politicians, but then as we move up the chain, representation becomes more diluted.
Nick Tomboulides: Let me tell you what I’m talking about. So we’ve got mayors of larger cities and towns, of course, that could represent tens of thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people then you have members of the state legislature. Here in Florida, members of the Florida State House represent 180,000 people apiece. Members of the State Senate represent over 500,000 people each. So as you move up the chain, the representation is getting more diluted. It’s a greater number of people who need to rely on a single politician. At the federal level, members of the US House represent nearly 800,000 people. And then members of the Senate represent an entire state so that’s variable but you are talking, in some cases, tens of millions of constituents. And the higher up you go, the bigger those districts get, the more problems you begin to have. First, because you’ve now got hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes millions of people, competing for one politician’s attention.
Nick Tomboulides: And how does that politician prioritize his time? ‘Cause he can only accept so many meetings, he can only attend so many events. Who’s going to be prioritized in that system? Well, what we’ve seen from experience is that typically that politician will give more time to the people who fund his campaign and less time to the little people. So a class system develops when the representation is this diluted and the politician has to serve so many different masters. It becomes basically pay to play, but then we would be remiss if we didn’t also ask how those massive district sizes affect our elections. We’ve said it before, if you wanna run for mayor in Lake Buena Vista, you need to knock on nine doors and have conversations. You don’t need to spend any money. But what if you wanna run for Mayor of New York City, or for Congress from the Tampa area, or for Governor of Texas and Florida? How do you do that? How do you run for these massive districts with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of constituents, if you’re just an ordinary American with no political experience who wants to make a difference?
Nick Tomboulides: You can’t knock on 20 million doors. You can’t knock on hundreds of thousands of doors. And this is the secret weapon of incumbents like Mitch McConnell who oppose term limits. They have name recognition and well-oiled political machines, political action committees that keep them in power no matter how big the district is, no matter how big the state is, and they are all well aware of this. Mitch McConnell is well aware of the fact that we, the ordinary American citizens, we don’t have access to any of that stuff. So he knows the game is rigged and yet he still challenges us disingenuously to try to beat him at his own rigged game. That’s why Mitch McConnell hates term limits because he knows an incumbent can manipulate elections so effectively that he will never lose.
Speaker 3: This is a public service announcement.
Speaker 4: You can’t keep a good man down, Knox County, Tennessee Mayor Glenn Jacobs retired as global superstar wrestler, Kane, become a local mayor. Today, Jacobs has become a spokesman throughout Tennessee for the term limits movement, at September 22nd, he went national, bringing his term limits message to the Lars Larson radio program.
Lars Larson: Welcome back to the Lars Larson Show, we have term limits all over the place, we’ve got presidential term limits, many states have term limits on being a Governor and other public officials, and yet we don’t have term limits on members of Congress. I thought we’d talk about that with a rather interesting guy who’s the Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, and he goes by Glenn Jacobs today, although Mr. Jacobs, that’s not the name you’re best known under, is it?
Glenn Jacobs: No, it’s not Lars, but many people in Knox County know me as Glenn Jacobs better, but most folks around the country and around the world would know me as WWE Superstar Kane.
Lars Larson: Yeah. And they don’t call you Mayor Kane in Knox County because that actually has a nice ring to it.
Glenn Jacobs: It does have an nice ring to it, but no, I’m Mayor Jacobs or just simply Glenn. So I’m in favor of congressional term limits, but nevertheless, I think it’s the overall power structure we have to think about, and when we’re thinking about Congress, the fact that people can get up there and stay up there, and it’s extremely hard to dislodge them in many cases, as you see with folks like Nancy Pelosi, they’ve been there forever, and they end up running the establishment. So I think that anything that we can do at this point to short circuit that and to allow fresh blood, new ideas is a very good thing.
Lars Larson: I take it you’re a student of history like I am. I mean, I read a lot of history and I know the founders… Washington, especially, he wanted to spend as little time in the nation’s capital as he possibly could. He wanted to be back on the farm working and they saw more value in that, in some cases, than what they were doing in their elective office. How do you suppose we lost that?
Glenn Jacobs: Overall the government just has way too much power and you can make way too much money nowadays. You look at George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, they went back to the farm and their farms are in disarray and that was how they actually made a living, and they had to spend most of their life after they got out of office to pick up and fix things and that was true public service, they were doing that as a public service, as you said, Washington, they literally had to beg him to become president in the first place, and then after eight years, two terms, he was done. I think nowadays the difference is that, especially at the federal level, these guys just have so much power and so much influence and it defines who they are as well, and not enough of them, for sure, take that idea of servant leadership anymore, now it’s just, I’m a really important person because I have all this power, I control all this money.
Lars Larson: And that’s kind of disturbing because in some ways it cuts us out of some of the most valuable people we could have, because my point of view, and I don’t know if you share this or not, but I’ll test it on you, if you’re somebody who’s got big skills and somebody said, “Hey, Glenn, you should go run for Congress or run for state legislature,” you’d say, “Look, this is where my skills are worth the most, okay, I’ll go do it for a couple of terms, but then I’m coming right back to it,” whether you’re a lawyer or a doctor or a WWE superstar. You say, “I’m not gonna take a big break, but I’ll be willing to sacrifice a few years and I’ll go off and do that for the public good, but I’m coming right back to my profession.” I can’t remember when I talked to the last person who said that was gonna be their approach to public office.
Glenn Jacobs: I think one of the issues that we face is, yeah, we have career politicians. And there’s a lot of folks out there that are great business people that have some really good ideas that could interject quality ideas, new concepts, instant dialogues, and they never get that chance because it’s so hard to dislodge an incumbent. So I actually agree with what you’re saying there.
Lars Larson: Do you think you can sell the idea to Tennesseans?
Glenn Jacobs: Well, we’ve made a huge step at the last legislative session and the house passed their resolution calling for a convention for congressional term limits. It has to go through the Senate this year, but I am confident that that can happen and… Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here, this is an Article Five Convention, which is a convention called by the state to talk about, to debate an issue in this case, congressional term limits. Four states have done it so far, and it would be great if Tennessee were to be added to the list and become the fifth state.
Lars Larson: Let me ask you a question about Tennessee. I know in my neck of the woods, they give pensions to people in the legislature, and I think that’s a gigantic mistake, because the first thing a pension implies is you’re gonna be around for a long time and then you’re gonna have served enough to give you a paycheck for the rest of your life. Does Tennessee give its retired politicians a pension?
Glenn Jacobs: Not at the state level. In fact, our house representatives are only paid about $24,000 a year, plus a per diem, so in our case, we really do have citizen legislatures at the state level, these are not folks who are making a whole lot of money doing what they do, and most of them have a job outside of being a state rep or a state senator.
Lars Larson: Mayor Jacobs, it’s a pleasure to have you on. Good luck to you, and I hope other states would adopt your same approach, no pensions for state lawmakers, no pension for most public officials. We don’t want you to stay around long enough to earn a pension, and frankly, I’d get rid of pensions for senators and reps on Capitol Hill too. You’ve got the Lars Larson Show.
Nick Tomboulides: Are you ready for it America? Are you ready to bring back the era of the 95-year-old US Senator? If you loved Strom Thurmond, if you loved a senator without his mental faculties being wheeled around Congress on strings, then you are going to love this sequel to Strom Thurmond, Chuck Grassley, because Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa just announced that he is running for his eighth US senate term, and when he finishes that eighth term, he will be 95 years old. 95 years old. Chuck Grassley was first elected to office in 1959 as an Iowa State Representative, he has been elected continuously for 62 years and he wants even more. Chuck Grassley was 36 years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Chuck Grassley had already been a politician for 15 years when Watergate happened. When is enough enough? The choice is ours. Do we want 95-year-old politicians? Or do we want term limits for Congress?
Nick Tomboulides: So elections alone, it will never be a substitute for term limits, it cannot be a substitute for term limits. Let’s look at some more of this data because it’s really shocking. When the Constitution was written in 1787, every member of the US House represented on average, 55,000 people. So that’s not a small number by any means, but it’s reasonable enough to keep some democracy intact. Flash forward to 2020, that number has exploded from 55,000 people per Congressman to 769,000 people per Congressman, so representation and democracy are virtually non-existent today. These incumbents can build barriers around themselves and keep challengers out, and they do so very effectively, we see that. One barrier is the Special Interest fundraising advantage, how an incumbent member of Congress gets $9 in checks from every special interest PAC for every $1 that goes to a challenger, so the incumbent is stacking the deck, the incumbent is keeping challengers out. Looking at the US Senate situation, is just as bleak. In 1787 when the Constitution was written each US Senator represented on average 137,000 Americans, 137,000 Americans. Today they represent on average 3.35 million people apiece.
Nick Tomboulides: So yes, I mean, this is just purely a result of population growth, it’s a result of the fact that we’re a very successful country and that we have grown accordingly, but our political system has not evolved to take that into account. So who’s gonna have a seat at the table with the senator who represents 3.35 million people? That Senator can’t take tens of thousands of meetings a day, so who’s gonna have a seat at the table? Is it gonna be the average Joe or will it be the lobbyists and PACs that fund the senator’s campaign? You’re starting to get a glimpse of how this system works and why really it’s broken, and with respect to term limits, term limits would play a huge role here because it’s really these massive districts coupled with the power of incumbency that creates such an unfair advantage and perhaps down the road, there’s gonna be some reforms for the size of districts, I know there’s some great activists who are working on that right now to reduce that dilution of representation… I sound like Jesse Jackson here, “The dilution of the representation,” but really term limits would at least give you more of a fighting chance to have real democracy and real elections.
Nick Tomboulides: And that is not lost on Mitch McConnell. He knows exactly how this system works, but he doesn’t want you to know how it works, that’s why I’m here telling you. But the term limits they can be artificially long, for example, California has huge districts, huge districts like million people. A California state senate district’s actually bigger than a congressional district. Each state senator in California represents a million people, so it’s very little representation, it’s highly diluted, but California has made a bad situation worse by having very crappy term limits, they have a 12-year term limit in California, which is longer than the term limit for the presidency of the United States. So why should a state office holder have a longer term limit than the leader of the free world? It makes no sense, but it also makes this problem worse because those term limits are so weak. So if we’re gonna fix the problem with Congress, if we’re gonna make these elections more democratic, if we’re gonna give candidates a fighting chance, finally drain the swamp in Washington and throw out people like Mitch McConnell, we need strong solid term limits on Congress, and that is what we are working on. That is our ultimate goal here at US Term Limits.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The term limits convention bills are moving through the state legislatures. This could be a breakthrough year for the term limits movement. To check on the status of the Term Limits Convention Resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. There, you will see if it has been introduced and where it stands in the committee process on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a ‘take action’ button by your state. Click it. This will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s termlimits.com/takeaction. If your state has already passed the Term Limits Convention Resolution or the bill’s not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US Term Limits. It is our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate, termlimits.com/donate. Thanks, we’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.
Speaker 8: USTL.