Philip Blumel: Term Limits Showdown in Texas.
Philip Blumel: Hi, I’m Philip Blumel, welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement, for the week of December 20th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Jessica Cisneros, a Democratic Congressional candidate looking to unseat the long-term incumbent representative Henry Cuellar, has signed the US Term Limits Congressional Term Limits pledge. And a new poll suggests that this move might be enough to put her over the top in this close race. Let’s discuss with US Term Limits Executive Director Nick Tomboulides, who’s been watching this Term Limits Showdown develop. Hey, Nick?
Nick Tomboulides: Hey, Phil.
Philip Blumel: So, we have a Term Limits flareup down in Texas where we have a young upstart challenging a long-term incumbent, and she’s come out for Term Limits, what’s the story?
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, that’s right. Jessica Cisneros was an outsider Democrat who challenged Congressman Henry Cuellar in 2020 and lost very narrowly, only lost by about three points. Cuellar is a senior careerist politician who’s been in power now for 16 years and Cisneros’ coming back for a second bite at the apple, this is a Democratic primary in a very Democratic district, and the story really showcases the non-partisan nature of Term Limits, because Cisneros is taking on a careerist Democrat, she’s a progressive Democrat, Cuellar has been in Congress for 16 years, but big picture, he’s been a legislator between state and federal for 30 total years.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: And Cisneros has just signed the US Term Limits pledge, which is huge.
Philip Blumel: Oh, yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s huge in and of itself, but we’ve also got some fresh polling from RMG Research, which is a company owned by Scott Rasmussen, that shows that the pledge is going to have a huge impact on the race. Because before signing the pledge, Cisneros lead Cuellar by 1 point, 36 points to 35, but that’s within the margin of error. However, when the poll respondents were asked, how would you vote if you knew that Cisneros had signed the US Term Limits pledge? She jumps out to a 35-point lead. 57 points to 22 points.
Philip Blumel: Right. Now, we’re talking about Democratic voters here, and so, you know, clearly that these voters, this is something that they probably didn’t know until they were asked.
Nick Tomboulides: Right.
Philip Blumel: And it’s amazing what a difference it would make, and what a difference it makes to all voters if they actually know this prior to voting, ’cause I’ve seen polls like this before.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s the caveat. Caveat, Caveat, caveat. This doesn’t mean she’s gonna win by 35 points, because there’s always a chance that her campaign might not capitalize. They may not go out and tell voters she has signed the US Term Limits pledge, and therefore she may not benefit. Because of course, as you said, every single person responding to this poll was told that she signed the US Term Limits pledge. But what this means is, if they can find a way to inform the people, if by primary day, every single voter is fully aware that Cisneros is for Term Limits and Cuellar is for more Pelosi’s and McConnell’s, then she is going to win big. I would say the same goes for candidates in other races everywhere. When you support Term Limits, and the public knows you’re for Term Limits, you reap the rewards of the ballot box big time.
Philip Blumel: Right. And the incumbent in this case has refused to sign this pledge, and he has been approached?
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right, we have approached him on multiple occasions and he has basically ignored us. Sad, but not surprising, coming from a guy who’s been a legislator for 30 years. He’s only 66 years old by the way, which means… [chuckle]
Philip Blumel: Jeez.
Nick Tomboulides: Theoretically, he could go 50 or 60 years if someone doesn’t stop him at some point.
Philip Blumel: Right. Well, he might be shooting himself in the foot, ’cause that same poll showed that 84% of likely Democratic party voters in District 28 favor congressional Term Limits, and 74% of them actually preferred the six-year limit for members of the US House that US Term Limits pushes for. And now, for him to come out and be against it, if the voters knew that, of course, they would react negatively.
Nick Tomboulides: They would, they absolutely would.
Philip Blumel: And it is not that it can’t… It can’t be totally secret to him. I mean, first of all, he knows voters support Term Limits, it’s something he just doesn’t wanna talk about. And I remember too, from a couple election cycle back, where representive Beto O’Rourke, who is a Democratic darling from Texas, he tried to run for President and he was the co-chair of the Congressional Term Limits caucus, and a big supporter of the congressional Term Limits amendment.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and he has announced, by the way, that he is running for governor of Texas. And he’s the consensus favorite to win the Democratic primary for governor. I think the Republican Governor, Greg Abbot, while having served three terms as governor, has also indicated that he supports Term Limits for Congress. You’ve got Ted Cruz in Texas on the Republican side, who’s for Term Limits, Cisneros Democratic side, for Term Limits. And I think that’s the big thing, the big take away from this, that sets this issue apart from the rest of American politics, makes Term Limits completely unique. We are just the last truly unifying issue that hasn’t been taken over by partisan politics, and it never will be. So we’re the big tent, and this tent has got Democrats, it’s got Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Green Party members, NPA, 82% of Americans are in our tent. We’re seeing that in Texas, we’re seeing the diversity of the support, we’re seeing the depth of the support, we’re seeing how when someone comes out for Term Limits, that’s so instrumental in moving the needle, if voters know about it. The tent is huge. The only people who are outside the tent are the corrupt Washington elites, the ones who are drunk on power, who wanna protect the status quo, but we don’t give a hoot about them.
Philip Blumel: Right, right. [chuckle]
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: There is no industry plagued with corruption like politics. Many politicians are corrupted in office over time by that job’s uniquely perverse incentives, but many are corrupt even before they arrive. And for them, this is the attraction of the profession. Either way, institutional restraints like Term Limits are a crucial check on ambition and corruption. Michael Cheng is a senior at Harvard College studying history and mathematics. In a November 30th, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Cheng shared a tale of politicians in training at one of the nation’s elite Universities and concludes, “leadership means more than simply climbing to the top and staying there.” Harvard University claims to produce future leaders, so do other colleges. But constantly telling young people that they’re leaders seems to bring out some of their worst qualities. Harvard undergraduates routinely joke about their student government, the undergraduate council, which often appears to be a racket for politically ambitious students to accrue resume lines and titles. The council has a record of ways to mismanagement. Between spring 2017 and spring 2018, it lost more than $100,000 in student activity funds.
Philip Blumel: The groups that got the money didn’t return it as unspent funds or submit valid receipts showing where it went. Even so, the student activities fee that funds council activities increased by 167% in fall 2018. During this year’s election, the council’s leaders faced attacks from multiple candidates, including me, who argued that Harvard Student Government was wasteful, ineffective and ought to be drastically reformed. In response, council leaders tried to cling to power. 10 days before the election date, members of the council passed retroactive rules allowing the Independent Election Commission to disqualify candidates for arbitrary reasons, which included “violations of the spirit of the election rules,” and campaigning before an official start date that was established only in the new regulations. Although I dodged disqualification, there were other tricks. When the election opened, the check box next to my name was obscured on the ballot making it difficult for students to vote for me. When the election commission was asked about the error partway through the voting period, they’d said the problem had been corrected, it hadn’t. And that “all votes casted thus far,” would be counted.
Philip Blumel: The commission changed its mind only after a flood of messages urged it to restart the election with a fair ballot. On November 13, I was elected president of the undergraduate council, a Harvard Crimson Editorial called the decision a “vote of no confidence” in the student government. Instead of listening to constituents, the undergraduate council’s leaders immediately began doing everything they could to undermine the election results, most notably, the council’s lame duck president and vice president submitted a bill to prevent students from amending their own student government’s constitution and make meaningful constitutional changes impossible without a super majority of student government leaders. True? This is only student government, not congress. What are the stakes? Vending machines, free donuts, perhaps the willingness of some students to do whatever it takes for the right resume lines relates to the unspoken assumption that all college students must be future leaders. College students rarely get the chance to think about whether that’s even something they want, they often aspire to leadership positions before thinking about what the responsibility really means. Leadership means more than simply climbing to the top and staying there, leadership shouldn’t be about the title of your position, leadership should be about what you do for those you serve. Thank you, Michael.
Philip Blumel: We’re switching gears for a second, someone else that’s worth noting was a big supporter of Term Limits is someone who just passed away, former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, and you had little kerfuffle with a letter writer to the Wall Street Journal recently I saw, congratulations. Just for your listeners, there was a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, not long ago, after Bob Dole passed away, and the writer had suggested that Bob Dole is just a good argument against Term Limits, ’cause what if there were Term Limits when he was in office, he would have been thrown out of office early and we would have missed out on his service. Nick saw this, immediately put pen to paper and had a counter letter published in the Wall Street Journal a few days later. Tell us about that, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, I’ve always had an affinity for Bob Dole, just speaking bluntly about this. I voted for Dole in my second grade election back in 1996. I didn’t even know who he was, I just thought he had a cool name, but this has now come full circle, because 25 years later, I see my letter about Bob Dole in Term Limits published in the Wall Street Journal, which is the second largest newspaper in the world, but it’s the only profitable newspaper left in the world. So I wrote this letter, some guy said, Well, Term Limits are bad because we need great leaders like Bob Dole who spent 26 years in the Senate, blah-blah. And my letter was very short and sweet, I just pointed out that Bob Dole was a supporter of Term Limits. So here, this guy is chirping about Term Limits taking away Bob Dole, but meanwhile, Bob Dole loved Term Limits. And Dole’s campaign website from 1996 is still online. You can get it in the Wayback Machine or you can Google that, the Dole camp ’96 campaign. He had an entire section of his website devoted to Term Limits. Dole voted for Term Limits in the Senate, he liked the idea, because here’s the thing, there’s a difference between self-Term Limits and constitutional Term Limits, and it’s a difference that the media don’t understand.
Philip Blumel: It’s a big, important difference.
Nick Tomboulides: Important difference, some of these trash journalists, they think if a person has been in Congress for 20 or 30 years, he or she can’t support Term Limits, and if they say they’re for Term Limits, makes them hypocritical. Not true. Wasn’t true for Bob Dole, isn’t true for elected officials today.
Philip Blumel: Right. Something else that springs to my mind is the mistake that people make regarding looking at Term Limits through the lens of a particular politician. Because Term Limits, it’s not about getting rid of Nancy Pelosi, that’s not the reason to support Term Limits. It’s not the reason to propose Term…
Nick Tomboulides: Yes it is. [laughter]
Philip Blumel: Well, okay. Alright, it’s a reason, but not the reason. And it’s not a good argument against Term Limits that it would have cut short the service of Bob Dole or whatever politician you like. It’s not about the individual politician, this is an institutional reform that makes the body work better. We need rotation in office in every seat. And there’s no shortage of Bob Doles and Pelosis if people want to elect Bob Doles and Nancy Pelosis to office. The key thing is we wanna have those decisions made in competitive elections where people have access to run, where voters have access to vote on meaningful campaigns, and not just rubber-stamping the re-election of an incumbent running against some paper candidate. We want a system that works and incentives that are correct in the institution, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Bob Dole or Nancy Pelosi or any other individual politician. Term Limits would make my favorite politician leave the body as well, and I don’t consider that to be a meaningful argument against them.
Nick Tomboulides: No. And we’ll take all the help that we can get to get Term Limits done, whether it’s from somebody like Jessica Cisneros, who hasn’t even gotten elected to Congress yet, or if someone who’s been in Congress for 40 years wants to co-sponsor Term Limits and vote for it, then by all means, we’ll take their support. And when it comes to people like Bob Dole, thinking about it from their perspective, they’re playing by the rules of the game. And right now, unfortunately, the rule of that game is Congressional seniority and clout. Unfortunately, you don’t get anything done in Congress if you don’t have seniority. That’s a problem. That’s what we’re trying to dismantle, but it’s still the reality now. And Bob Dole knew that, he knew he needed seniority to have an impact, but at the same time, he wanted to change that system for the future.
Nick Tomboulides: He wanted a better system. So, it’s not inconsistent at all. For those baseball fans out there, it’s kind of like when you’re a manager and you’re playing defense, you capitalize on the shift, you use the shift to try to retire some of these left-handed batters who are just gonna pound the ball into the ground, and you shift your infielders over. So you play by the rules, but you still might favor getting rid of the shift to have a better game for the future, and only the hardcore baseball fans, baseball nerds rather, are gonna understand that, and for that, I sincerely apologize to our listeners. But the media want you to think that the 20-year politician who supports Term Limits is a bad guy. He ain’t a bad guy. The media are the bad guys in this situation, because they hate Term Limits and they want to scare the 20-year politician into opposing it, and we can’t let that happen because we need some of these long-termers to back this effort in order to have the votes to get it done. So, when you see the media trying to divide the movement, trying to tell certain people that they aren’t allowed to support Term Limits, don’t buy into it. Stay the course.
Philip Blumel: Absolutely.
Speaker 5: Hey, Marines. Corporal Tarin Ascot here. The Marine Corps recently released MARADMIN 696-18, which changes the activity duty service limits for Sergeants in the Corps. Service limits ensure that a Marine who has not been selected for promotion in their current grade by a certain year mark, are either separated from active duty or transferred to the reserves. Sergeants who remain eligible for promotion, meet retention standards, are favorably endorsed at the battalion or squadron level, and have not missed Staff twice, may serve up to 12 years. Additionally, Sergeants may apply for a waiver for active Marine Corps service up to 14 years, if favorably endorsed at the Colonel level. For more information about MARADMIN 696-18, visit marines.mil. And that’s your Marine minute.
Philip Blumel: There’s not a whole lot of action going on in the States right now in the issue of the Term Limits convention resolutions for more than one reason. One, it’s Christmas season, everybody’s going home to their families and their districts to celebrate the holidays, but of course, also most of the sessions in most of the states have ended earlier in the year. There’s still some action going on in some, and I noticed that in Pennsylvania, our new state chairs of US Term Limits operating there have been quite active.
Nick Tomboulides: They have been. And Pennsylvania is just more evidence of the bipartisanship, the non-partisanship of the issue, because our state chairs there are former Democratic State Senator Andy Dinniman and former Republican State Senator John Eichelberger. They appeared together on TV this week in, I think Scranton area, on This Week in Pennsylvania, for an interview about the Term Limits convention, and what they’re doing to support it. They went through some of the basics and I thought they really did a fantastic job explaining it to the viewers, and I think every time we can get these state chairs in front of an audience to talk about Term Limits, it’s gonna give this effort in Pennsylvania a huge boost. So yeah, we’ve got the clip here. I thought they did a great job.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, let’s roll it.
Speaker 6: And welcome back to This Week in Pennsylvania, joined now by former state senators, Democrat Andrew Dinniman and Republican John Eichelberger. Thank you both for being with us, guys. You’re now pushing for Term Limits in Congress, you’re co-chairs of a group called US Term Limits. Andrew, what is that?
Andrew Dinniman: US Term Limits is a national organization trying to get each state to a… Based on Article 5 of the US Constitution, to call for a convention of the states to force Congress to act.
Speaker 6: And Term Limits, what kind of Term Limits are we talking in the House and Senate?
Andrew Dinniman: Yeah, absolutely, in the House and Senate.
Speaker 6: Four terms, three terms? What is the…
Andrew Dinniman: It is up to the convention to decide that. Many believe it should be no more than three terms in the House and no more than two terms in the Senate.
Speaker 6: John, critics who are watching and saying “Hey, there already are Term Limits, they’re called elections. And in the House, it’s every two years, and in the Senate, it’s every six years.”
John Eichelberger: Well, we know practically, that doesn’t work. In fact, I had a friend of mine, former house member in Pennsylvania, talk about the Pennsylvania legislature and how, if you look into statistics over the years, retirement, death and imprisonment outrank defeat for incumbents. So, it’s pretty hard to beat an incumbent.
Speaker 6: Say that one more time for me, say that one more time.
John Eichelberger: Retirement, death and imprisonment. Those are the three, they are… You’re more likely to leave office by one of those three than you are by losing an election.
Speaker 6: Where are we in the process of this? So you’re the Pennsylvania co-chairs, you’re gonna try to get… What has to happen, I guess? Congress has to agree to limit themselves?
Andrew Dinniman: Well, what happens is this. Is when two-thirds of the states based on Article 5 of the US Constitution, meets together for a convention, it then requests Congress to act. Congress has to act. But this has happened before. For example, the 17th Amendment allowed for the election of senators. Before that, they were chosen by the state legislatures. What Congress will probably do is when enough states ask for the convention, they will act ahead of time and probably, unfortunately, protect themselves as incumbents, and it would be for the future. But whatever, we need to move forward on this.
Speaker 6: John, what do we know about the popularity of the plan or the idea of limiting our US congressmen and senators?
John Eichelberger: It’s very popular. Across the board around the United States, it’s 82% of the public supports this. It’s a little higher for Republicans, slightly lower for Democrats, and Independent’s a little bit lower, they’re in the upper 70s. But it’s 82% across the board, so I’m not aware of any other issue right now that it would be 82% agreement in moving forward with an issue. That’s why a lot of times, what happens with constitutional amendments like this is, once there’s enough momentum and the states start to get closer to the two-thirds margin, the Congress will be forced to act because they know they’ll either do it on their own or the convention will have to be called by law. So they may go ahead and implement some Term Limits on themselves.
Philip Blumel: So what are the prospects of the Term Limits convention resolution in Pennsylvania? We’ve made some progress this year. What’s the prospects for next?
Nick Tomboulides: We have. We discussed that hearing that the legislature had held on Term Limits and the convention. Pennsylvania is a year-long session, so even though the year is ending, they’re just gonna come back into session very quickly in 2022, if we can’t get it done in the next couple of weeks. So I think the prospects are solid. We’ve got good sponsors. In the Pennsylvania Senate, the Senate President, Patrick Corman is co-sponsoring the resolution. Doesn’t get any better than that, because you always need buy-in from leadership to move a piece of legislation forward. We’ve got… Sometimes in these states, the state legislators call up the US senator and say, “Hey buddy, what do you think? I might vote to term limit you. Are you okay with that?” And most of the time, the Senator says, “Hell no, I’m not okay with that.” But in Pennsylvania, US Senator Pat Toomey is one of our strongest allies, and he has already come out for this effort as well, so we can check that box of the most influential US Senator is for it.
Nick Tomboulides: Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, former head of the Democratic National Committee is for it. So in Pennsylvania, there is energy, there’s enthusiasm, there’s legislation, there’s hearings, there’s these high profile advocates, state chairs, Andy Dinniman, John Eichelberger, Pat Toomey and Rendell who’s speaking out before it, the leadership is for it. I think it’s in a very good place right now in Pennsylvania, and I’m excited to see what happens in the weeks and months ahead.
Philip Blumel: Okay, me too.
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: Find us on most social media @USTermLimits. Like us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and now TikTok.
Speaker 4: USTL.