Tell me again: Why do we have presidential term limits?

If you saw Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, you almost certainly were blown away. Both Democratic and Republican analysts commented on how powerful and persuasive he was. If you missed it, you can watch it in its entirety on the video above.

Clinton’s performance leads to the question, why exactly couldn’t we have elected him to a third term? The answer, of course, is the 22nd Amendment, which was passed by Congress in 1947 and ratified by the required number of states in 1951.

Before Franklin Delano Roosevelt, most presidents had agreed to honor the tradition set by George Washington of not running for more than two terms. (Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson  tried unsuccessfully to pursue third terms.) FDR was elected four times; he died about four months into his fourth term.

Apparently, after FDR, people were worried about the possibility of the presidency becoming a kind of pseudo-monarchy. To me, that seems silly. Presidents are elected every four years. If we like them, and they want to serve more than two terms, I see no reason to send them out to pasture while they’re still effective. If they outlive their effectiveness, then we have the option of voting them out.

Starting in 1985, during Ronald Reagan’s administration, there have been efforts in Congress to repeal the 22nd Amendment, but they’ve gone nowhere. The talent pool for filling this office is so shallow that, when we find a good one, we shouldn’t cheat ourselves of the opportunity to keep him or her in office as long as things are going well.

What do you think? Is it time to repeal the 22nd Amendment?

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