Published on January 28th, 20130
Black Folks & Term Limits?
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
If eight years have passed and you are looking at the same skyline and infrastructure, surely it’s time you looked at the people you have as mayor, member of Congress and city and or county council and make a decision as to whether they should be “movin’ on.” The Black Political Empowerment Creed should be: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got. You’ll never get change until you make it. Change requires reconsidering things of importance to you and then approaching them differently.
Something you may want to consider in your approach to politics is term limits and statutory restrictions on the number of terms an official or officeholder may serve in a public office. Across America term limits are taking hold and have been put in place in 15 state legislatures; eight of the 10 largest cities in America adopted them for their city councils and or mayor, and 37 states placed term limits on their constitutional officers.
Blacks should be aware that some of our entrenched politicians and parties are attempting to declare term limits “racist” to convince voters that “they would harm Black special interests.” They say that “terms limits threaten Black political power” and if imposed “will negatively affect Blacks who have reached positions of power in state and federal government.”
But, if the view outside your window is no better than it was eight years ago, you should be suspicious that the current circle of officials probably isn’t representing your interests. Term limits break ties to special interests, lobbyists and destroys seniority and enhances meritocracy. Term limits undermine the threat of lobbyists being legislation’s primary influencers.
Traditionally, Black inhabitants comprise what are known as “politically safe” districts. Once in office, Black brothers and sisters stay there with impunity. But, they aren’t the only ones. America’s 10th richest man, Michael Bloomberg, campaigned to change New York City’s term limit law to run for and win his third term as mayor.
Black environments breed career politicians, who across the board are more loyal to their party’s interests than those of their constituents. “Mainstream America” is heavily entrenched in partisan politics, resulting in gridlock, at any level, when trying to pass legislation. If term limits were enacted, towing the party line would be less important at all political levels. The way things are in establishment politics, most legislation is written by a committee that handles a specific duty or topic. Committee appointments can be prized positions for the power, influence financial backing that can be attained. These positions are often assigned based on political favors and a willingness to support specific causes or projects. Therefore, career politicians who have formed the most self-serving relationships can often be given the most power in Congress. Term limits would work to stop this cycle of political reward and power abuse. Committee assignments would be determined by merit and expertise.
Historically, in predominately-Black districts, we continue electing the incumbent because of name recognition and party affiliation rather than a proven track record. Among African Americans, incumbents are re-elected 90 percent of the time. Although, Black members of Congress wield great personal and committee power, little of it accrues for their predominately-Black districts as they adhere to racist institutional polices to keep their place in the power structure. The political playing field is not level between incumbents and challenging candidates because of the ability to raise money. In 2010, the average incumbent in the House raised around $1.4 million, while the challengers averaged $166,000. With that incredible discrepancy, incumbents usually prevail.
If the view outside your window is not changing, isn’t it time to make changes at City Hall, the State House and or your representatives to Congress? Take heed that term limits reduce the power of outdated and outmoded entrenched staff and bureaucracy. Change is likely to bring new people and ideas into government.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Reed is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Press International. He has been a Media Entrepreneur for over two decades. A long-time Washington insider, Reed’s special strengths include: public and community relations; grass-roots organizing; script and speech writing, legislative affairs tracking and research; and access to a network of national and local government, business and organizational policy-makers and public opinion-molders.