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Love those 'crazy' term limits

No matter what California's governor says now, he got it right the first time when he argued for 'citizen legislators.'

October 31, 2009|Philip Blumel | Philip Blumel is the president of U.S. Term Limits.

Recently, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger again raised the term-limits debate, calling term limits "crazy." The governor made his remarks in San Francisco at a speech after he was introduced by former state Sen. Jack Scott.

Schwarzenegger said: "I actually miss him now that he's not there, but I know he was termed out because we have these crazy term limits here in California and people that are that experienced like him then have to leave and move on."

The only thing that's crazy is thinking that out of 36.7 million people, only the elite political class of individuals are "experienced" enough to hold public office. It is insulting to aspiring public servants and to the voters of California who elected Schwarzenegger.

In 2003, as a candidate, he said: "My campaign for governor is based on the concept that California's state government belongs to the people, not the career politicians. As we are now seeing with the state's budget crisis and anti-business policies, it is too easy for the politicians to become disconnected from the people they are supposed to represent. That is why I believe in citizen legislators and yes, even citizen governors. It is also why I am such a strong believer in term limits."

Funny what a few years in public office does to a politician. Schwarzenegger eventually turned against term limits and sided with the political establishment in 2008, when he endorsed Proposition 93. The ballot measure, which was defeated, would have altered term limits. He wrote, in an article for this page: "It takes time to learn how to govern effectively. Under the current system, our elected officials are not given the time they need to reach their full potential as public servants."

Experience is overrated. As a candidate, Schwarzenegger had a good grasp of the issues facing California when he first ran in 2003 -- and he had never served as a public official. The first years of his administration found him attempting to take on the political establishment -- without success. That, of course, included the public employee unions, which have drained the state's treasury over the years.

His attempts at reform failed, but it was not for lack of experience on his part or that of any legislator. It was because the political establishment proved to be too powerful to defeat at the polls when Schwarzenegger ran his ill-fated referendums in 2005. In hindsight, those reforms would have fared better in an off-election year.

But Schwarzenegger's initial instincts were correct. The way to defeat the political establishment that has bankrupted California was to go over its head and appeal directly to the people. Eventually the people will emerge victorious.

What is actually crazy is thinking that the political establishment just needs "more time" to fix the problems that it has so glaringly caused. Schwarzenegger knew better in 2003. And the people of California know better in 2009, and they assuredly will defeat SCA 24 -- yet another proposed constitutional amendment to weaken term limits -- in 2010. Because they are not "crazy."

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