Philip Blumel: It seems like America has a holiday for nearly everything else under the sun. For instance today, October 22nd, is national Nut Day. Yeah that’s the nutritious snack I’m talking about, not the acronym for the no uncertain terms podcast.
Philip Blumel: Tomorrow, October 23rd is national Paralegal Day and national Boston Cream Pie Day. Yeah.
Philip Blumel: There might be a valid reason for having a Term Limits Day. It could be a chance to focus reflection on the long tradition of this popular form and also a good day for citizens to publicly show support for the idea, just in case politicians forget.
Philip Blumel: Lets ask Nic Tomboulides, executive director of U.S. term limits, what he thinks. It’s part of his job to restrain me and to shoot down my nuttier ideas. Although, that might be bad for him on national nut day.
Philip Blumel: Hey Nic.
Nic Tomboulides: Hey Phil. I don’t think Boston Cream Pie Day is a bad idea actually. I think that’s something I could definitely get behind and endorse if you wanted to run with that.
Philip Blumel: Right. What about the idea of Term Limits Day?
Nic Tomboulides: I think it’s a great idea. I think Term Limits Day should not just be a box that you check when you log into your social media in the morning and say happy Term Limits Day. I think since we have such a rich tradition of term limits in this country and we have such a rich tradition of distrusting politicians at all levels of government, this should be something that we really unify behind. This should be something that gets us up and brings people together for activism. If we did a Term Limits Day, it couldn’t just be some flowery language. I would really want to see people getting up and mobilizing on Term Limits Day, to make term limits more of a reality in this country. Particularly at the congressional level.
Nic Tomboulides: So I think it’s a great idea.
Philip Blumel: Right. If we’re going to do this it has to be something that … One, it would have to engage our activist, right? That’s key and so this discussion we’re having right now Nic is something that usually you and I would have over a beer or something. The reason that we’re doing it here on the podcast is that our subscribers are really a part of the team. We really need to invite them in because if we’re going to do something like this, who’s going to be celebrating it? Not just you and I, right? It has to be our activist. That’s why I want to have this as part of the podcast this week.
Philip Blumel: What I really want to know is, are people going to rally around this and participate? Is it going to be something real? What activities can we associate with it that would be simple and repeatable that people would like to engage in? Then, you know, when? What day? In fact let’s start with that.
Philip Blumel: What would be the best day to have Term Limits Day?
Nic Tomboulides: Those are all very good questions. I think in a sense, every Independence Day is a Term Limits Day. That was really the first time people in this country rebelled against centralized political power. In a sense, this is already kind of interwoven with the american spirit and the ethos of how our country was started.
Nic Tomboulides: As for which would specifically make the most sense, I would suggest right off the bat … Obviously we need input from our supporters and our listeners on this … I would suggest February 27, 1951. The significance of that date is, it was the date when presidential term limits were officially ratified into the U. S. Constitution as the 22nd amendment.
Nic Tomboulides: A lot of people know that for the first 150 years of our history, we never had a president that served more than two four year terms. That was only a voluntary tradition. It was started by George Washington who refused to become a king and decided to return to his plow rather than continue serving our country as president. For 150 years after Washington’s tenure, that was the tradition until president Roosevelt took office. He ran for not only a third term but a fourth term and eventually died in office. At which point the american people, the congress, essentially every intellectual of the day decided we needed to have some term limit on the presidency so that would not likely happen again and they mobilized. The state started asking for presidential term limits. Then the congress proposed presidential term limits and 38 states ratified it on February 27, 1951.
Philip Blumel: That’s a good candidate.
Nic Tomboulides: Yeah, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. When we talk about congressional term limits one of the core arguments we make is, if eight is good enough for the president why is eight not good enough for the congress? Why are a term limits not a good idea for our legislators? I think February 27th, the date presidential term limits were made a constitutional amendment officially would be my starting point.
Philip Blumel: In the next day or so, Jim Coxworth, the Illinois business man who’s walking from Chicago to Springfield to promote legislative term limits, will reach his finish line at the capital. To find his precise location today, checkout the Illinois citizen uprising Facebook page. We last caught up with him on day seven somewhere out on route 66.
Philip Blumel: Hello Jim. How are you doing?
Jim Coxworth: Good, how are you?
Philip Blumel: Well where do I find you today?
Jim Coxworth: I am about four miles north of a place called Centreville, Illinois in the middle of a farm field. By the end of today, I’ll be just a hair over half way.
Philip Blumel: Okay. Great. Great. So how’s it going? Is it working? Are you drawing attention to these issues as you’d planned?
Jim Coxworth: We’re getting a lot of press and people are coming to our website. I would say we are getting some traction. Never enough but we’re hoping to get some more.
Philip Blumel: Good. Is this mostly local media in the towns that you’re going through?
Jim Coxworth: Yeah local stuff. We had a 6:30 radio broadcast this morning in Pontiac. We’re expecting to get maybe some TV coverage when I get down to [inaudible 00:06:39].
Philip Blumel: Right. That media attention is probably pretty friendly?
Jim Coxworth: Yeah. Oh yeah. Once you’re down state in Illinois, they’re all anti Chicago politics so yeah.
Philip Blumel: Okay great. Any set backs or frustrations on your trip so far?
Jim Coxworth: I don’t think there’s any setbacks but there could always be more attention. There’s an awful lot of activity on the website. We’re trying to let everybody know that it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s an every one issue. People seem to like to settle in to the worn path of red or blue but we’re trying to say, hey this is going to benefit everybody.
Philip Blumel: I was watching some of the videos you’ve been making as you take your trek and you already mentioned the non partisan or bi-partisan nature of this issue. I appreciate that. One thing I came across this week that I found interesting is that the Chicago Tribune is publishing its candidate surveys of everybody running for the legislature. Trib is asking everybody what their position is on state legislative term limits. That’s wonderful. I would love to see that in every state.
Jim Coxworth: Wow, that’s terrific. I didn’t know they were doing that. The Trib has come out before against term limits and they said, we already have free elections so why do we need term limits. Of course in a perfect world they’re right but not the way the state of Illinois works right now.
Philip Blumel: That’s going to be a resource for you, also for your organization IllinoisCitizensUprising.com. You want to be able to hold these people accountable and their imprint right now, speaking to the Trib, telling us whether or not they support term limits or not … Some of them are weaselly of course. I was just looking at one … Sorry I don’t remember the name of the candidate … She said that if it makes it to the ballot, I certainly go along with what my constituents decide. Ignoring, conveniently, it’s part of her decision to put it on the ballot.
Jim Coxworth: 80% of the constituents wanted this put on the ballot. I mean it’s crazy, just crazy.
Philip Blumel: Well I definitely appreciate you bringing attention to this. Our podcast comes out on Monday and I think by then you’ll be pretty much finishing up your trek. Any plans on when you get to Springfield?
Jim Coxworth: We have a 10:00 press conference in the blue room, which is in the state capitol building. We’re hoping to get some press there and maybe some people will show up outside. Show their support for term limits.
Philip Blumel: Great. Are you going to be streaming that on your Facebook page or on your website?
Jim Coxworth: Yes, I think we’ll be doing that and I think all the news services will also get streamed. This particular group, as I understand, they send out to all the different news media.
Philip Blumel: Good. Okay. I urge everybody to check out the IllinoisCitizensUprising.com site and also their page on Facebook to get the latest. Jim thank you very much for doing this. It’s a great cause and you’re really helping it along.
Jim Coxworth: Thank you very much.
Philip Blumel: Another good one is September 18. On that date is when Oklahoma became the first state to approve legislative term limits. So that definitely launched the wave of referendum that followed the next couple of years in which 15 states became term limited. At least their legislatures and 23 states term limited their federal congressman as well. Of course we know that got shot down in the supreme court case U.S. Term Limits vs. Thornton in 1995.
Nic Tomboulides: If you’re asking what moment really sparked the modern term limits movement, that would probably be it. Back in 1990.
Nic Tomboulides: Another consideration might be … It is election day so it might be much harder but November 3, 1992. On that date 14 states voted independently for term limits on their state legislatures and on congress. There have never been more significant victories for term limits in a single day than on November 3, 1992. Of course most of those laws are still around today keeping state legislators from serving, in most cases, more than eight years.
Philip Blumel: Right but well I’d go a little bit further than that. There’s been no issue that has been more successful at the ballot box via referendum than term limits and that day is the main day. 14 states in one day and each of those efforts were separate efforts. Put on the ballot by separate groups of citizens in all 14 of those states. That is definitely a very historical and important day that really shows the power of this movement and that would be a good candidate too for Term Limits Day holiday.
Nic Tomboulides: Can you imagine walking in a politician’s shoes back in 1992. All these state legislators who just been around decades and decades. They’d never heard of term limits on their own seats before and then in one day, wham bam thank you ma’am. 14 States pass term limits. People were angry with the politicians, in fact I think they have only gotten madder since. The results wherever you have careerism, have just been such a disaster. People are wanting change. People are wanting to return control back to citizens. Term limits is an obvious answer.
Nic Tomboulides: Let’s say we went with February 27th. Presidential Term Limits Day. That is right in the middle of the legislative session for most states. Meaning that there is no where for the politicians to hide. They’re going to be in their offices. They are going to be debating bills. They’re going to be debating whether to vote for term limits on congress. That would allow us to have a rally in every state capitol in America, culminating with an even bigger rally in Washington D.C. Possibly on the national mall where we could gather term limits supporters of all parties and stripes. Politicians, activists, writers, citizens and anyone who wants to be a part of this movement, could come together. We could rally for term limits. Express ourselves. Make our case to the political class and force them to do the right thing.
Nic Tomboulides: I would like to see a string of rallies all over the country. Possibly starting as soon as this February 2019, if that is indeed the date that we select.
Philip Blumel: Governor William Weld served as the 68th governor of Massachusetts between 1991 and 1997. As a republican governor of a democratic state, Weld necessarily offered a message that appealed across party lines. An important part of that message was support for congressional term limits. That hasn’t changed. Here’s former governor Weld on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program last year.
William Weld: I tell you what would be the silver bullet for what’s wrong with Washington would be term limits. I was national chair of U.S. term limits with Howie Rich when I was in office. If congress won’t act on that, the states have the power to do a convention to force the constitutional amendment for term limits. I think that would be a worth cause after the election.
Speaker 6: Take care of term limits, take care of gerrymandering and you’ve taken care of a lot of at least what ails the house.
Scott Tillman: This is Scott Tillman, national field director with U.S. term limits. We run two different pledge programs each election cycle. One of course is where we ask congressional candidates to sign an amendment pledge to support the term limits amendment.
Scott Tillman: The second is where we ask state legislative candidates to support a term limits amendment through a Article 5 convention. The pledge for an Article 5 convention reads: I pledge that as a member of the state legislature, I will cosponsor and vote for the resolution applying for a Article 5 convention for the sole purpose of enacting term limits on congress.
Scott Tillman: This is a pledge that we ask people who are running for state house and state senate to sign. In the 2018 cycle we`ve had 303 state legislative candidates sign this pledge. Of those 303, 207 are still in the races going into the November general election.
Stacey Selleck: Luther Martin, term limits prophet. There`s an informative and humorous little book called Forgotten Founder Drunken Prophet, The Life of Luther Martin by Bill Kauffman. Martin was a representative of Maryland at the constitutional convention in 1787 and an example, exasperating to many, of the so called anti-federalist who feared the new constitution would centralize new and nearly unlimited national powers. To protect Americans liberties, the antis clamored for among other things, a bill of rights and term limits. They got the former but not the ladder.
Stacey Selleck: In the debates over term limits, Virginian George Mason, often call the father of the Bill of Rights, pointed out that nothing is so essential to the preservation of a republican government as a periodic rotation. Boy did he get that right. Martin argued vociferously as apparently it was the only way he knew how. That the entrenched politician, get this, would take his family to the place where the government shall be fixed. That would become his home and there is every reason to expect that his future views and prospects will center in the favors and the monuments of the general government.
Stacey Selleck: It is lines like these that Luther earned the title prophet in this book’s title. “But not only the anti-federalist feared an entrenched incumbency. Federalist G. Livingston of New York imagined the elite life of the political careerist, thusly, in this Eden they will reside with their families, distant from the observation of the people. In such a situation men are apt to forget their dependents, lose their sympathy and contract selfish habits. The senators will associate only with the men of their own class and thus become strangers to the condition of the common people. They should not only return and be obliged to live with he people but return to their former rank of citizenship. Both to revive their sense of dependence and to gain a knowledge of the country.”
Stacey Selleck: The anti-federalists are labeled in history as the losers of the constitutional battle but their many contributions to the constitution, tributes to their obstinacy and adherence to principal, greatly improved that document and helped it preserve rather than threaten liberty. Time has proven the anti is correct on term limits, however to be fair, it took a while for their dark predictions to materialize. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the professional politician became the norm in congress and in legislatures across the country. Many of the delegates who supported rotation in office but felt that term limits were unnecessary, never dreamt of congress members holding their seats for decades. The antis did and slept fitfully upon leaving Philadelphia.
Philip Blumel: We have some other news a little less joyful. We’ve reported a couple of times on our podcast about what’s going on in Arkansas. Arkansas use to have one of the tightest term limits laws in the country. In a absolutely deceitful ballot measure in 2014 where they hid an anti-term limits provision in a so called ethics measure and in the title said that this ethics measure was going to establish term limits when really it was weakening them, they snuck through with 53% of the vote, this horrendous package. There has been an effort by citizens to rectify the situation by putting a straight forward term limits measure back on the ballot for 2018, that would return it to having one of the stricter or the strictest term limits measure on their legislature in the country.
Philip Blumel: So far so good. They collected the necessary signatures and turned them in and it was approved to be on the ballot for November. We cheered and we talked to Tim Jacob, who is one of the leaders of the effort, on an earlier podcast. The bad news is, just a week or so ago, at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce and other special interest that had launched a lawsuit, a special master they call it was chosen to re look at the subject. The special master decided that 14,000 of the signatures that had previously been certified they are now decertified and that the term limits measure is not going to appear on the ballot in November.
Nic Tomboulides: Dreadful.
Philip Blumel: Unbelievable. It really is. It’s disheartening and it makes you almost lose faith in the system. That you can collect all these signatures … They collected 135,590 signatures.
Nic Tomboulides: I can’t lose faith in the system because you can’t lose something that you never had.
Nic Tomboulides: This is still very disheartening and what bothers me the most about it is that the 14,000 signatures that were thrown by this so called master, were not thrown about because they were not signed by real Arkansans who wanted term limits. They were. They were signed by registered voters who really did want term limits on the ballot, which is perfectly legal. That’s not why they were thrown out. They were thrown out because this guy had a problem with the people collecting the signatures. Like the people collecting the signatures didn’t check the right box on the form. Or maybe they had moved in between transferring from one signature page to another and their address hadn’t been updated with the state so therefore the state believes that it can just toss all these signatures out.
Nic Tomboulides: The reasons for tossing the signatures out were really frivolous and outrageous. That’s what really makes this thing stink to high heaven.
Philip Blumel: It sure does.
Nic Tomboulides: The process was not on the up and up.
Philip Blumel: No. So it was brought to the attention of the former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee who was interviewed the other day and brought this up.
Mike Huckabee: One of the biggest disappointments I’ve had watching Arkansas politics now, is to see people in the legislature doing the exact things that we work so hard to get rid of in my early days as governor. We hired a former FBI agent. We went after corruption and quite frankly it was far worst than we ever imagined and the result was there were a number of people who were indicted, tried, convicted, many went to prison and they should have. They were violating the public trust. They were stealing money from the taxpayers and I think those of us who were involved in the politics of Arkansas at that time, probably thought, boy I’m glad we’re going to get rid of this. It’ll never happen again. People will see that you’ll eventually get caught. So my heart was broken when I saw that there were people, some of whom I knew, some of whom I had worked with when I was governor and they were in the legislature and some really surprised me. It broke my heart to see it because you think they won’t do that again but they do.
Mike Huckabee: It’s one reason why I think term limits are very important part of our political system today. I fought hard before I became an elected official to help with term limits. I think the legislature made a huge mistake when, I think, they sucker punched the people of Arkansas and expanded their terms. They did it, I think, very dishonestly by calling it an ethics bill that had nothing to do with ethics. It was all about giving themselves longer terms and I think the net result is it’s easier to get involved in things that are corrupt, the longer that you stay.
Austin Sekel: This is Austin Sekel with U.S. Term Limits. I’m the grass roots director here and I wanted to share a letter to the editor that we came across from the News Tribune based in Tacoma, Washington. A citizen named Sandra Johnson from University Place wrote and quote, “The presidency has a term limit. Let’s make it so with the senate, the house and the supreme court. We need to insist on having democratic and republican lawmakers who will cooperate and compromise for the good of all the american people.”
Austin Sekel: If you’d like to read the full article and much more, please look at the show notes at termlimits.com/podcast and send a letter to the editor of your own local paper today. Thanks guys.
Philip Blumel: The Arkansas story is particularly heartbreaking because in 1992 term limits passed with 60% of the vote. Then in 2004 the politicians tried to weaken and abolish the term limits in a straight forward way. Meaning they just put a straight forward measure on the ballot to do so and the voters rejected it with over 70% of the vote. They learned a lesson. They learned that they couldn’t just put a straight forward anti-term limits measure on the ballot and expect it to pass. They had to be tricky. They got tricky. It worked and now trying to remedy it, they’re pulling out these technicalities and screwing the voters again.
Nic Tomboulides: For our listeners edification, I’m going to read right now and exhaustive list of the times politicians were able to abolish term limits using only honest and ethical means.
Philip Blumel: Thank You.
Nic Tomboulides: Okay I’m done. That’s the list.
Philip Blumel: Very good. Thanks for doing that research for us Nic.
Nic Tomboulides: No Problem.
Philip Blumel: Term Limits Day, what do you think? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
Philip Blumel: Would you personally participate in such a holiday? Seriously think about it.
Philip Blumel: What simple activity could we associate with such a date that you would like to participate in?
Philip Blumel: Just putting a sign on your front lawn? Sending term limits greeting cards to your elected officials? Sharing a Term Limits Day meme to all your friends on social media? Something else?
Philip Blumel: If we’re going to do it, what is the best date?
Philip Blumel: We are genuinely interested in your feedback and it will help us make this decision. If you’re a subscriber to our weekly podcast then you’re part of the inner circle of the term limits movement, so send us an email at email@example.com and let us know what you think.
Philip Blumel: If you’re not a subscriber, subscribe. You can use the podcast app on your iPhone or download Stitcher for your android device or subscribe at iTunes and rate and review us while you’re there.
Philip Blumel: Have a great week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised but, fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.