Philip Blumel: We did it. We hit 100. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement, for the week of July 11th, 2022.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: At the same time that confidence in the US Congress has hit all time lows, US Term Limits is breaking records collecting written pledges of support from candidates for a congressional term limits amendment. Are these phenomena connected? Let’s ask US Term Limits, Executive Director Nick Tomboulides. Hey Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Hey Phil.
Philip Blumel: One hundred. How’d it happen?
Nick Tomboulides: We’re keeping it 100. That’s right. It’s a historic moment.
Philip Blumel: One hundred signers of the US Term Limits pledge in the US Congress. How did we get here?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, it happened when two new Republican pledge signers were elected to Congress in special elections. First, there was Mayra Flores in Texas, 34th district. I think she’s the first Mexican-born woman to ever be elected to Congress, that happened on June 14th, US Term Limits pledge signer, and then on June 28th, Mike Flood, former Nebraska House speaker was elected to their House seat for the First District. Flood replaced Jeff Fortenberry, who had been convicted in federal court of concealing foreign campaign money, we’ve chronicled him on here before.
Philip Blumel: Yes, we have.
Nick Tomboulides: So him being a corrupt piece of trash actually allowed for the seat to open up, he was convicted in federal court, Mike flood became the congressman, and we’ve hit 100 pledge signers for the US Term Limits amendment between the House and Senate.
Philip Blumel: That is fantastic. Now, to remind our listeners, this pledge that Mayra Flores and Mike Flood have signed, basically commits them to co-sponsor and to vote for the US Term Limits Amendment in the US Congress, and that’s both the House and the Senate. Yeah, this is a big deal.
Nick Tomboulides: That Amendment, of course, is embodied by House Joint Resolution 12, which has been introduced by Congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina, he’s the lead sponsor, so that’s the actual piece of legislation that these two will be getting on board with.
Philip Blumel: Okay, excellent. Now, so we have the bills introduced in both Houses of the Congress, we have 100 members of the full US Congress that are signed on, pledged to co-sponsor and vote for it. We still have a ways to go. But still this is a significant milestone, we’ve never gotten here before.
Nick Tomboulides: One hundred is historic, it’s symbolically important. It’s like fresh clean water being pumped into the disgusting muck of Washington into the bog, one by one, the movement is expanding and we’re gaining a bigger foothold in the capital.
Philip Blumel: Right, we had two special elections this year, in which we have seen quite a few pledge signers both the state and the congressional level advance, during the primaries too, so it’s very realistic to think that we’re gonna have some more after the November elections that make it into the US Congress, so we’re not done yet. We have a lot of momentum right now, and there’s a lot of things feeding into this; one is that we have an energized base of supporters of Term Limits across the country, we have our US Term Limits staff out there working, calling up these congressmen and asking them to sign the pledges, and then of course, when they go back to their districts, they see term limits supporters out there asking them about the pledges. That’s how we got here. Now, beneath that, there’s something else…
Nick Tomboulides: I have one more thing to add as well.
Philip Blumel: Oh, sure, yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: You have to remember, it’s also going to be a wave election, it’s gonna be an election where Republicans reclaim control of Congress, that means there’s going to be a historically high number of retirements in Congress. Retirements means open seats, it means more candidates are running, who actually have to listen to the voters, and when candidates have to listen to the voters, they’re exponentially more likely to sign the US Term Limits pledge. So I don’t think I’m going out on a very big limb here to say that in those 55 open seats in Congress that have been created by retirements, and yes, it’s sad. Congress of over 500 people, and 55 is considered a large number of open seats ’cause there’s so little turnover, but in those 55 open seats, there’s a huge number of USTL pledge signers, and I think the number is gonna go up. I think 100 is the floor at this point and our upside on this is limitless.
Philip Blumel: That’s great. Now, why now? What is it about right now, in the situation that the country is in, that we’re seeing this explosion of interest in term limits and also the willingness of more and more politicians to sign on a pledge and come out publicly and say, “Hey, I’m for this people,” what’s going on out there?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, it’s because trust in all of our major institutions is collapsing, but especially trust in Congress. Gallup is out with a new survey that’s measuring Americans confidence in major institutions. This is the percentage of people who have confidence in a particular institution. So for example, at the top of the list is small business, 68% of Americans have a lot of confidence in small businesses, 64% have a lot of confidence in the military, but those are only two things anyone has confidence in because dwelling in the basement with a rating so low that it could be the batting average for the Florida Marlins, only 7%…
Philip Blumel: Again?
Nick Tomboulides: Only… Yes, again. Only 7% of people have a lot of confidence in Congress. That is a historic low.
Philip Blumel: 7%.
Nick Tomboulides: And that is why candidates are coming on board, that is why term limits is catching on like wildfire, because Congress has lost the trust of the American people, and they’re probably never getting it back until this Amendment is ratified.
Philip Blumel: Yeah. Wow, that is incredible. Only 7% of Americans have quite a lot of confidence in the US Congress. And I noticed too, and I’m looking over the numbers from Gallup, at the other end, at the negative end, it’s also the record… A negative response too, that is to say people who have very little confidence in Congresses is now over 50%, which it rarely is, it has been before, but very rarely. And this is the most negative view of Congress that the American public has ever had since they started taking these polls. 54% of Americans have very little confidence in the US Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: And we’ll obviously put this article… We’ll make it available, and the survey is just staggering. There’s so much controversy right now surrounding the US Supreme Court, and yet the US Supreme Court, 25% of people still have a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court. That’s three times over triple the number who have a lot of confidence in Congress, and so my question, Phil, is, Why is the number so high? 7% of people believe in Congress, are you freaking kidding me? Let’s get those people the mental health services they need. Those are probably the same people who drive alone with a mask on.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: Zack Maxwell, the publisher of the online Arlington voice led a movement to impose term limits on the Arlington Texas City Council in 2018, and won. It was a rough road with politicians throwing every road block they could into his way. Maxwell told his story to the second annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival in Philadelphia in 2019.
Zack Maxwell: There is an idea that we can all get behind; Term limits. The idea that politicians shouldn’t stay in office forever, these politicals that stay in for 10, 15, 20 years, they get really comfortable, they get comfortable with your money. When we decided to term limit the Arlington City Council last year, we did it because we knew it was a movement that everybody would get behind, it was a winning fight, if you will. Everyone from around the country, when they found out that we were gonna term limit the Arlington City Council, we started getting support from all over. Areas like Philly, for example, people were sending us things, wanting us to spread the message of term limits. Our opponents had everything, they had money, they had clout. They spent over $400,000 trying to defeat this proposition. By all accounts, with that much money you should win, right? But the thing is, is that term limits is, it’s fun. It’s one of these things that you bring people together, and that’s exactly what we did in Arlington. See, what we found is that it didn’t take money to get this through, it took people power, it took inspiration, it took people with energy, motivation.
Zack Maxwell: We were pulling people together from all over the City, Firefighters, Police Officers. We had the NAACP on our board, we had the US Term Limits campaign, everybody wanted to be part of the term limits movement. We worked with some really, really awesome patriots, people who believed in fundamental ideas like democracy and free speech and fairness. We collected over 12,000 signatures in record time, 10 weeks. We had over 100 volunteers doing this, this wasn’t a money game, this was a game of energy, it was a game of focus, it was a game of numbers, it was about every day getting up and figure it out, how many signatures do we need to collect this day in order to hit our target? And we hit it. And they didn’t like it. We managed to do this in record time, we sat in front of our judicial systems, we sat in front of our libraries, our city halls, our county commissioners courts and as people came out, we asked them, we said, “Do you wanna support term limits?” And they said, “Hell yeah, let me come over here and sign that.” We had people signing our petition, and they were saying, “How do we get this on Congress,” and I said, “I can’t help you there, but we can do it on our city.”
Zack Maxwell: They attempted to hijack our petition, they attempted to put a watered-down version of term limits onto the ballot, and we had to fight that. I had to actually go to court and get a restraining order against our city council for their illegal behavior. We were leading a fight, and that’s what we had to do. Without money, all you really have is energy, and whatever fight you have within you, and I made sure every day that I was leading our volunteers, that I stood boldly in front of them and said, “We’re gonna win. This is a winning fight.” We had a winning message, we kept it simple. We kept it friendly. We kept it positive. Vote for term limits, who’s not for that? We had to do where I always told everybody, “If taking a picture, give it a thumbs up, give it a big smile.” We kept the message simple, we had these shirts, he’s not wearing one, but we had these shirts that just said #TeamTermLimits, that’s it. No graphics, no nothing like that. We had red, we had blue. If you’re a Republican get a red, if you’re Democrat, get a blue. It was a simple message.
Zack Maxwell: In the face of such extreme anger from our opponents, we still found room to unify, and I think that that’s what’s most important, is that you gotta make sure that you don’t turn your opposition into your enemy, like they did us. We kept it very positive. We told people, Be nice. Don’t do to them what they do to us. It was truly an incredible movement. I’m a Republican, and one of the most amazing things about this is how I was able to reach across the aisle and work with people that I traditionally do not agree with on a political level, this is the progressive women of Arlington here. So it was a very, very fun movement. We did win last November by 25,000 votes. We only spent… Thank you. We only spent just over 10,000, and it was really an amazing movement, so I wanna leave you with something. The last thing I would tell you in all this is that when you are taking on a fight like this, you need to have fun with it, because they’re going to do everything they can to make your life a living hell. But as you can imagine, it’s pretty easy to pick the winner, thank you very much.
Philip Blumel: And I would like to suggest to you that this is the period in which we have had the situation that is forcing us to call for term limits, that is to say, it’s really been since the ’60s, late ’60s, that we’ve seen a situation where a incumbent running for their own seat has won about 95% of the time, where there has been such a huge disconnect between what the voters think and what they think is reflected in the Congress. The disconnect has become so large that we don’t feel that it reflects our opinions, our goals, our aspirations or anything, we look at it as a corrupt swamp of people that can’t be dislodged and that are only there to feather their own nests and to serve their own interests and the interests of those that support them.
Nick Tomboulides: Exactly, and there’s also been this explosion in the median tenure of members of Congress, where if we look at median completed tenure for Congress, that has just risen substantially over the 20th century, particularly the late 20th century, as people are living longer, there are more advantages of incumbency, it’s incredible to see how that tracks so directly with the lack of faith in Congress, the lack of trust in Congress, as we’ve pumped more and more career politicians, more and more expert politicians into this system, we’ve watched faith in this very same system collapse as Congress has mutated from a citizen legislature that exists to serve the needs of the people and address constituents concerns, it’s mutated into this permanent political class, and that is when the trust has really become eroded, that is when the confidence has disappeared.
Philip Blumel: And this permanent political class, because it really can’t be dislodged, it’s getting older. So we’ve also seen over this period a rise in the age of these people that are representing us because they’re not leaving, and that’s another disconnect, another thing that puts Congress further and further away from the experience of most of us. So from pretty much every angle, Congress is drifting off, and I note that term limits, the focus of this podcast and of US Term Limits and this whole project, addresses all of these things, both the lack of turnover in Congress, the lack of meaning in elections, the age of the people that represent us and imposing term limits would bring Congress back to where our voting and our opinions would matter and reflect who actually serves in Washington. There is help on the way, I think that’s indicated by the fact that we just hit 100 sponsors in the Congress for this, so the pressure is on them to change, to reform, and we just gotta keep it on, and that takes more and more action from our people.
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 has 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: Contact your state lawmakers before they vote on term limits for Congress. Go to termlimits.com/takeaction.
Speaker 6: USTL.