Restoration : Congress, term limits, and the recovery of deliberative democracy
Transcription of Annotations
Notes on half-title: 1932--Big change, Rhetorical Presidency--136, Bush 138, TV, Cold War. The President/judicial branch belong on the periphery/Congress at center. Term limits break careerism. 1st/2nd Continental Congresses--1774/1775. 1% of Americans, 1/3 of sample would almost never trust Congress to do the right thing. Book written to give rationale for limit on number of consecutive terms members of a legislature can serve. Term limits included in 15 resolutions of the Virginia Plan. Son of philosophy professor. 3rd year as academic, offered position on staff of Senator. Allot. Spent 3 years on Capitol Hill. Academia, politics, journalistic commentary. It is that ideas matter. The Wall, Stock Market, Desert Storm. Harbor no hostility toward government or Congress. There is a scorched-earth, pillage-and-burn conservatism that is always at a rolling boil. Capitol is noblest public building in daily use anywhere in the world. Autumn 1991--American discontent became qualitatively different. When Lincoln founded Dept. of Agriculture it had one employee for every 1,694 farms. Today one employee for every 16 farms. Cynicism--America a world class producer. Senator Robert Byrd. 5 term limit, Byrd in 6th term in 1992. When Byrd became Appropriations chair in 1989, promised to slosh $1 billion into West Virginia in his first 6 years--did it in less than 3. If people served only briefly in legislatures, going to them from other careers to which they would return, less incentive to shovel out pork. If legislators not too separated for too long from normal citizens/life/communities might retain ability to discriminate between appropriate/inappropriate functions for federal government. Constituents no longer ask for things, they demand them. Donald Pease. Nelson Polsby--Congress, acquire experience, after hired by government $2 billion a year. Break closed circle of persuasion by having compulsory rotation of offices--term limits. Staffers--average length of service 5 years for House/5.7 for Senate. Lobbyists--careerists. Cabinet 8 years. Senator Albert Gore--Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Public television, paradigm of America's welfare state gone awry. Sharon Rockefeller. Bill Moyers. History of House of Representatives success rate for reelection of incumbents rarely fallen below 70%. Since 1932--no election in which fewer than 79% of House incumbents seeking reelection were successful. 2 elections below 80%. In 21 elections from 1950-1990--rate exceeded 90%. House 12 or more years consecutive service. Since 1790, 73% of incumbents reelected. Careerism. 20th century--steady ripening of careerism. Party voting no longer decisive, substantive knowledge of candidates records insufficient to furnish a substitute base. House franking privilege. 2nd half of 1991, 85 million pieces of mail. 1991 185 House members spent more on mailings than the average challenger to a House incumbent spent--$108,506 in 1990. Roll Call--one awaits the great awakening when Roll Call recognizes that most members are using the whole government mainly to win votes. Today's argument about the proper role of Congress is not just an echo of an earlier argument. Samuel Osgood, Massachusetts, Who shall rule? Framers of the Constitution strove to constitute a deliberative democracy--at core a Congress. Deliberative process involves identification/investigation of social needs, formulation of legislative remedies for recalcitrant problems. Until TR all presidents, with the exception of Andrew Johnson, communicated primarily with legislative branch rather than the people. Rhetorical presidency blurs--erases--distinction between campaigning and governing. TV has made the presidency, the constant. TV journalism, slave to inherently superficial news gathering instruments--cameras. Dignity is in the eye of the beholder, few who behold Congress today consider it dignified. Most Americans regard Congress with contempt. Term limitation--idea that representation not a function beyond capacities of any reasonably educated, attentive citizen. Boldness of American experiment in liberal democracy, Liberty is to be protected by institutional arrangements rather than by reliance on the nurturing of virtue, among the masses or in some saving elite. Cold War put 9 presidents--from Truman through Bush, front-and-center on stage of constant drama. Cold war and TV arrived simultaneously. Term limits for legislators would help limit imperial judiciary. Term limits--increase likelihood that Congress will reclaim role as center of American government--putting courts, presidency where they belong, toward the periphery of political life. No one can know that term limits will serve "the conservative agenda" whatever that might be. Balanced budget amendment is a dubious idea whose time, has come. For journalists/political class being in Washington is the point of life. House turnover--of 1,692 congressmen since 1955 when Democratic control of the House began, 35.7% of members, or 604 congressmen have served seven terms or more. One reason ex-legislators are hired by private interests today is to take advantage of their relationships with ex-colleagues who remain in Congress. Scoop Jackson--term limits will truncate some great careers. Americans must be less demanding of government. Americans must resolve to seek a more reserved/respectful relationship with First Branch of government, Congress.