Philip Blumel: Question, of the 10 largest cities in America, which is the only one without term limits on its city council? I’ll give you a hint. It’s also the most corrupt city in the country. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement, for the week of June 27th, 2022.
Stacey Selleck: You’re a sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Of course, I’m talking about Chicago, where once again, activists including former Governor Pat Quinn are gearing up for a battle to impose term limits in the Windy City. Joining me to discuss it is US term limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Hey Phil. Let’s talk about the big news this week.
Philip Blumel: And what’s that?
Nick Tomboulides: Term limits.
Philip Blumel: Of course, of course. In Chicago, most likely, where the former Governor of the state, Pat Quinn is again, once again on the war path trying to impose term limits on this time the Chicago City Council and boy, he’s tried to impose term limits on the state. Legislature, also made it… This is the second big attempt on the city council. Man, he’s a term limits hero for sure. Why can’t he get this over the finish line?
Nick Tomboulides: He’s having trouble getting it over the finish line due to a ridiculous legal technicality. Pat Quinn was the guy who got term limits on the ballot in Illinois back in the early 1990s. He created a petition to do it in Chicago back in 2019. He only failed because Chicago has this weird law where the City Council can actually crowd out Citizen ballot measures by putting their own pretty useless ballot measures on the same ballot. They’re only allowed a maximum of three. And the Council can put its own crap on there to crowd out what the citizens want, that is what has impeded Pat Quinn from getting term limits on Chicago mayor.
Philip Blumel: Right, ’cause he successfully, him and his group successfully collected the signatures to do this and just to forestall it, the City Council put on their own question which had something to do with banning plastic straws or something that was in the headlines at the time. The sole purpose, of course, was to keep the people’s initiative off the ballot. So the answer really to my question is, is why can’t… Hasn’t anyone he been able to get it across the finish line, it’s because of corruption and self-interested politicians in the state. Because he got it on the ballot back in the ’90s for the state legislature, collected the signatures and everything, just like he did in Chicago in 2019. And in that case, the Supreme Court shot it down, the Supreme Court of Illinois. And it’s happened since it was in…
Nick Tomboulides: It happened again in mid 2014 when another political rival of Pat Quinn, Governor Bruce Rauner collected the signatures, he went out and did that, I think it was probably somewhere around a million signatures to get that on the ballot. And once again, the Supreme Court, which is incestuously connected with Chicago, Illinois politicians blocked it from appearing on the ballot again. And I remember the exact reasoning they gave, this is completely ridiculous whether you’re a lawyer or not, was that term limits do not make a structural and procedural change to the legislature. Give me a break.
Philip Blumel: Right. I know it. And I remember that was what they shot down the first time with and then the new one was written with these the original supreme court decision in hand and so they crafted it to make sure that it hit those points that the court used as an excuse, it didn’t do any good. The Supreme Court threw it out. Anyway, so Pat Quinn has been in the trenches on this forever. He is a term limits hero, for sure. And now, he… The big news this week is that he’s trying again. So what’s the story and what’s he trying to do exactly?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, he has announced another ballot drive and I’m sure the council is gonna be back to their same old tricks of trying to keep him off the ballot, but there’s a looming threat behind the scenes here and that is Pat Quinn might run for mayor of Chicago at the same time he’s running this ballot drive and if Quin were to become the mayor, he’d be in a position to keep those other frivolous questions off the ballot. So it’s kind of like a one-two punch here. Chicago has a mayor who is nominally pro-term limits, that’s democrat, Lori E. Lightfoot, but in her first term, she hasn’t really lifted a finger to do much about it. She’s out there positioning herself as a term limits ally, she’s even using US term limits materials in her campaign announcements. She actually quoted us in her campaign announcement video or re-election announcement video, she highlighted briefly a US term limits article, but she hasn’t done bupkis to put pressure on the council members or to refer to a term limits moment to the ballot, because if the council and the mayor were to get behind the amendment and it would come from them, then it could occupy one of those three prime slots and it couldn’t be dislodged by anything else.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, she’s been helpful in this effort though. It’s part of normalizing this call for term limits in the state. The people love it, the polls have always said so. The establishment has been dead set against it. Well, she’s part of the establishment now and she’s supporting it, and that’s been very helpful, but you’re right, she’s gotta do a little more than that, she’s got to lift a her finger. She promised to.
Nick Tomboulides: She’s out there saying powerful forces are trying to stop progress for Chicago, she’s referring to members of the City Council who oppose term limits. Chicago has this councilman Ed Burke, we’ve talked about him on here, he’s been in power since 1969. 53 years.
Philip Blumel: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: And he’s under 14 counts of indictment, but why can’t he get rid of them? Well, his wife is the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. [chuckle] So…
Philip Blumel: Oh, yeah. Oh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Is that the same Supreme Court that ruled the voters initiative on term limits invalid a few years back?
Nick Tomboulides: The very same.
Philip Blumel: Oh. No kidding.
Nick Tomboulides: The very same. So in Illinois, they’re all thick as thieves.
Philip Blumel: No, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. Is this the same Ed Burke that actually put the measure on the ballot to crowd out the Pat Quinn initiative in 2019?
Nick Tomboulides: That, I don’t know. Is it…
Philip Blumel: Oh yeah. Something like, you know, yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: Is it? Wow, okay. I didn’t know he was the lead sponsor, but it’s hardly surprising.
Nick Tomboulides: Fifty-three years, 53 years for a councillor, Chicago’s had two mayors, Richard Daley and his son, who were in power for a combined 43 years. It’s nice to see Lightfoot showcasing US term limits, telling people she’s four term limits in Chicago, but she’s had three years to do something about it, so you have to wonder is it may be all hat and no cattle. She’s talked about it for a while, but talk is cheap, where are the term limits.
Philip Blumel: Well, I believe Pat Quinn. If he got elected mayor we’d see some action on this, one way or the other. There’s no doubt about it. Well, it’s been one of the primary issues motivating him in his entire political career. That and he’s also a big fan of recall too, that was always part of his package, tournaments and recall. Basically given the people of Chicago and of Illinois some recourse against the corrupt government that they’ve been saddled with for so long.
Nick Tomboulides: What I like about Pat Quinn is unlike most politicians who lead these types of efforts, he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. He doesn’t go out and play golf and let somebody else pound the pavement and collect these signatures, he’s out there with a clipboard, himself, collecting these signatures, talking to people, he’s got his sleeves rolled up, he’s dripping in sweat, he’s out there in 98 degrees summer heat getting these signatures, getting the job done, you gotta give him some credit for that, ’cause most politicians don’t want to get their hands dirty anymore.
Philip Blumel: Ed Burke, by the way, alderman is, of course, as you said, under all these indictments and his trial has been kicked off until probably, I guess later this year. He’s currently sitting on the council and he will be an opponent of this, but he may not be there much longer. And first of all, he’s up for election.
Nick Tomboulides: He’s also like 200 years old.
Philip Blumel: Yeah. He is the longest serving alderman that Chicago’s ever had so that is interesting too, because it just fills out the story of him being the chief opponent of term limits on the council and also under indictment for, guess what? Corruption. So perfect story, good versus evil story right there that’s for sure, pretty clear.
Nick Tomboulides: It is a good story, it is a good story. And Quinn and Lightfoot are on a potential collision course here. Term limits might be the deciding factor, whichever one is more proactive on term limits, might be the winner and when that happens, the real winner is the voters of Chicago, the people of Chicago who’ve put up with way too much for way way too long.
Philip Blumel: Oh yeah. We know they want it. The last polling we have on Chicagoans and term limits is 69% in favor of a term limit council, so there you go. And Pat Quinn might be the guy to give it to him.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: The issue of California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s declining capacity, found its way to an interesting interview on PBS’ Amanpour & Company this month. Author and columnist Rebecca Traister examines the life and career Senator Feinstein, looking for clues to among other things, why she claims to power at age 88.
Speaker 5: One woman who has continuing covered violence against women in her work is writer and author Rebecca Traister. But today, she’s here to talk about one of the most senior members of the US Senate, Dianne Feinstein. In her latest profile Traister examines the five-decade career of the 88-year-old politician.
Speaker 6: What would you say is her North Star and staying in… Not just seeking public office, but staying in public.
Rebecca Traister: She really believes in the power of top-down authority as opposed to bottom-up authority. Feinstein believes in the Senate and the Senate rewards seniority. The way the senate works, the longer you stay there, the more power you have, which means that the question of Feinstein, for example, the question of whether she would retire in 2018 when she could have and chose to run again and came in for a lot of criticism at 85 for running for another term and was challenged muscularly from the last but one.
Rebecca Traister: In part, what that reflects is that senior Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, has the ability to bring her state all kinds of resources, money that… And this is a systemic reality in the Senate, and it’s certainly not just Dianne Feinstein who’s been there as long as she has, there are so many of her colleagues who are over 80, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, Pat Leahy, in part because they gain authority and power to provide for their state, and the state in turn appreciates, in some cases, their ability to provide for voters. And so it is in fact her… She’s embedded in and believes in an institution that of off incentivizes her never leaving that institution.
Speaker 6: Is this a particular challenge for democrats? And the reason I ask is as you point out a number of people in the Senate, in fact in the House are elderly. And so democrats seem to be quite restive about this. Republicans either don’t seem to mind or have been… Right, look, Mitch McConnell was just re-elected, and he’s 80 years old, people don’t seem to have a problem with that. But they’ve also seemed to be either recruiting or attracting younger people who also tend to be some of the most radical, people like Josh Hawley, for example. In Ohio, JD Vance running for… Running for the Senate. So it’s just… Is this a particular problem for democrats?
Rebecca Traister: So I think that gerontocracy is bipartisan. There’s older leadership, Mitch McConnell obviously, is the leader of the Republican Party and an extremely effective one. I think a lot of people would agree. The fact that there are that senior leadership and senior members are in fact very old is true on both sides.
Philip Blumel: All right. Let’s switch gears. Let’s look at South Carolina where there’s another would be term limits advocating governor. And that is with, Joe Cunningham, young guy, about 40. And he’s former Congressman right, running for, a governorship of South Carolina against a 75-year-old, governor Henry McMaster long, a career politician, Cunningham, a Democrat, just like Pat Quinn is calling for term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: He is, that’s right, he’s calling for term limits and age limits. He put out a campaign video. He said that South Carolina and our country are being run by a geriatric oligarchy. I don’t know if that’s a term most voters are gonna understand, but it’s certainly true people staying in office way past their prime, Cunningham said, some of these folks have been clinging on to power for 30, 40, even 50 years. Folks who are making a career out of politics are making a mess out of our country and has proposed an age limit of 72 years to be a politician in South Carolina. They already have that retirement limit on judges. It’s interesting. He’s also proposing term limits. Didn’t specify the number of years, he was asked if he believes Joe Biden is part of the geriatric oligarchy and his campaign had no comment.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: But this guy looks to be serious, when he was in Congress…
Philip Blumel: He was good on… Right when he was in Congress. He was good on the issue. I think, I don’t know if remember if he was a signer of the US Journalist Pledge, but he was a supporter of the idea and I believe of the amendment.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right. Yes. He was a co-sponsor of the us term limits amendment in the house. He lost his congressional seat to another signer, Nancy Mace, two years ago.
Philip Blumel: That’s right.
Nick Tomboulides: A Republican signer. We’ll see what happens, but, I’ll tell you this, anytime someone is running for governor and they promise a constitutional amendment, be very cynical because that requires a vote from the legislature first. So he’d literally, he’d literally be asking some 90-year-old Senator to vote to ban 90-year-old senators. I don’t know how well that’s gonna resonate.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, I know, and that’s right.
Nick Tomboulides: Drugs don’t usually vote for prohibition, but hey, more power to him.
Philip Blumel: Yep. But it’s probably one of the reasons why he won a, five-way primary, to get to where he is as the nominee. And, like I said, he’s got some history of activism on this issue, so he’s not, he’s not a Pat Quinn, at least not yet, but I’ve… I have high hopes for him.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. And it’s encouraging to see more rising stars within the Democratic party talking about term limits. A lot of these newer, younger, more enterprising democrats who haven’t been in politics that long, I think Joe Cunningham just turned 40. He’s got a very bright future. Lori Lightfoot hasn’t been elected very long. You’ve got people like Jared Golden in Maine who are signing the term limits pledge and championing the issue. Jessica Cisneros in Texas, very impressive candidate down there, for the house, this past election, so there’s seems to be a little mini resurgence of term limits within the democratic ranks, especially among the younger ones.
Philip Blumel: Yep. It’s good to see.
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 commission 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 are 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.