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“He was going to go down fighting.” 2010-May-23 at 08:07 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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Specter Legacy Is Study of the Perils of a Switch, by Katharine Q. Seelye, 22-May-2010

At the time, Mr. Specter said candidly that he could not win re-election in a Republican primary because his party had moved to the right.

“I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate, not prepared to have that record decided by that jury,” he said.

And so we have the ungraceful end of an over 40-year career in the Senate.  And it took us watching the slow-motion train-wreck of a transparent and desperate switch in political parties, followed by a bitter and cynical primary fight, to get to the end of it.

Is the United States demonstrably better for having people in office for over four decades?  Haven’t we seen, over and over, the machinations of those who seek re-election more than they seek to improve the way this nation is governed?

Now, imagine with me a world with congressional term limits.  Imagine a world where this kind of pathetic sight didn’t happen.  Imagine the simple, graceful turnover of congressional seats, election after election, as roughly 1/6th of Congress would be an open seat.  Imagine the new perspectives coming in, every two years.  Imagine the old guard, giving their advice about survival and “how things work in Washington” to newer members who never intended to do things that way in the first place, and then imagine the newer members politely humoring the older ones and then doing what they think is right anyway.  And imagine the old guard, no doubt still in Congress from grandfather clauses in the term limits amendment that exempt current members (the only way we’d get one), finally leaving in confusion about “the way these new people act around here”, or actually just waiting to die in office.

Imagine the day when the very last senator still serving under that grandfather clause leaves, and every single member of Congress will serve no more than twelve years: two terms in the Senate, or six terms in the House.

Imagine the kind of bold, imaginative legislation we’ll get when that happens… far less influenced by special interests or lobbying.  Younger, more energetic, more in tune with what we need at any given time.

And imagine when the average human life span grows past 100 years… and then past 120 years… and then past 150 years… all of which is coming in the 21st Century, and realize how important it is to get term limits into place as soon as possible.  If we don’t, we’ll see the first senator to serve 100 years in the Senate during the 21st Century, and that’s not a good thing, from where I sit.

And imagine when we won’t ever again hear lines like:

“Maybe there comes a time when people think, ‘Should I run anymore — is there a time to bow out gracefully?’ ” Mr. Harkin said. “But that’s not Arlen’s style. He’s a fighter. And he was going to go down fighting.”

That’s a day to look forward to.