Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Congressional term limits are necessary to ensure accountable representatives

After another representative breaks personal pledge, US must seriously consider Congressional term limits
Marissa Haegele

March 3, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, from East-Central Wisconsin, broke a personal pledge to not serve for more than a decade in Congress by announcing his candidacy for a sixth term. In his announcement, he said he hadn’t thought much about his pledge, and that now he doesn’t know how long he might serve in his reliably-Republican district.

Obviously, since there are no official term limits for representatives in Congress, Grothman will not face any legal repercussions for breaking his personal pledge. But, if Grothman was just going to break the pledge anyway, what was the point of making one in the first place?

These kinds of “term pledges” are not a new concept. Some candidates make term limit pledges to demonstrate their identity of not being a career politician. There is even an organization, called U.S. Term Limits, that encourages politicians at all levels of government to sign term limit pledges until they are enacted in law.


Campaign finance rules must be restricted to restore nonpartisan Supreme Court elections

According to U.S. Term Limits, term limits help make sure government officials are in touch with and accountable to their constituents. Politicians who can stay in office for decades at a time, they argue, gain many systemic advantages that insulate them from challenges to their power. The public catching on to this frightening prospect is exactly what motivates politicians to make term limit pledges, even if it’s just a temporary political move.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, another Republican, made a similar pledge to not serve more than two terms. Yet, just last year, he won reelection to a third term in the Senate. Writing for the Wall Street Journal in January 2022, Johnson feigned lamentation over his decision to run again, insisting that he would really rather retire, but that he wouldn’t — the nation was in “too much peril.”

Attacks on the Democratic Party and appeals to a populist base are riddled throughout his column. He warns voters that Democrat elites have completely taken over the government to enact “tyrannical” policies. Johnson insists his reelection campaign was a noble one, to save American voters from the corruption and career politics of the Democratic Party.

But behind these platitudes is the truth — Johnson is the exact kind of politician he’s encouraging his constituents to be afraid of. In addition to going back on his personal term limit pledge, Johnson has a history of questionable political tactics for the sake of winning. 

During his 2010 Senate campaign, he raised $15,235,898 in total, according to Open Secrets. But, $9 million of his campaign funds came from himself, in a morally, if not legally, dubious scheme to borrow from his plastics company, PACUR. Shortly after being sworn into the Senate, Johnson received a $10 million payment for deferred compensation, essentially allowing a corporation to spend $9 million on his campaign, according to The Cap Times.

Madison must critically examine inherent discrimination in single-family zoning

After the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Johnson fiercely defended Donald Trump, who faced impeachment and possible criminal charges for his incitement. In addition to downplaying the violent insurrection, some reports indicate Johnson had deeper involvement in the plot to overturn the election.

According to the Washington Post, Johnson’s chief of staff tried to deliver a slate of fake electors backing Trump to former Vice President Mike Pence. This indicates a level of corruption that Johnson would publicly condemn, making his political morality unclear.

The proposition of legal term limits is not a new concept for Republicans. After the end of a long period of Democratic control of Congress in the 1990s, Republicans began to advocate for term limits, according to the New York Times. These efforts never gained enough support to pass, but even today, Republicans are trying to pass similar measures.

Ultimately, these may never garner the support they need to pass, because largely, advocating for legal term limits has historically been a political — not a genuine — move. Republicans were not actually particularly interested in leaving office after a few terms, but really in building a narrative about “elitist Democrats” who are “controlling the government.”

Reappointment of conservative attorney poses threat to Wisconsin Supreme Court

Many Republicans and Democrats alike oppose term limits for various reasons. Some say having experienced Congresspeople is beneficial to passing legislation. Others know that seniority is a valuable quality for positions in the Senate. But, term limits are a necessary facet of a functioning democracy, and genuine efforts must be made to enforce them.

Our election systems, if they are to be truly democratic, should prevent corruption and encourage turnover, so the people feel like their representatives are consistently responsive to their needs. Allowing people to remain in office too long insulates them from outside challenges, as a result of the well-researched incumbency advantage, according to Open Secrets. A democratic system is dependent on a system of accountability and transparency, not on political insulation and deception.

Term limits exist in many other government positions, so it seems prudent to preserve our democracy to enact similar limits on members of Congress. Politicians should be held accountable by having to live with the policies they create, outside the comfort and security within the chambers of Congress.

Celia Hiorns ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *