To Restore America the
Audio only! Sound, not video_
AND OTHER DEMOCRATIC REFORMS
FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS CHOSEN IN
FEDERAL ELECTIONS, i.e.
MEMBERS of CONGRESS
But 'tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base
degrees by which he did ascend.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar 2:1
We acquire certain habits, feelings, and opinions,
as men and citizens – others, and very different
ones, from a long continuance in office.
Richard Henry Lee, 1787
With frequent change, to keep the patriot pure,
And from vain views of power the heart secure
Philip Freneau, Reflections, 1815
══ INTERACTIVE CONTENTS ══
PART II: HISTORICAL ROTATION IN OFFICE
PART III: ROTATION AS PROPOSED IN THE CONSTELLATION LAW
PART IV: DEMOCRATIC CHANGES TO ACCOMPANY ROTATION
AND OTHER DEMOCRATIC REFORMS
FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS CHOSEN IN
FEDERAL ELECTIONS, i.e.
MEMBERS of CONGRESS
The Framers of the Constitution created a divided government, with some branches less democratic than others. Because they intended the House of Representatives to be closer to the voters than the Senate, the Presidency, or the Judiciary; the U.S. House is the logical place to revive the vigor and elegance inherent in government that is indeed of, by, and for the people. An aim of the constellation law, section 1:1, is to re-democratize that chamber of Congress which is designated by design as the sanctuary of democracy within the framework of a republic.
Certainly revitalization of the democratic process is a pressing imperative, given that so many people are turning their back on the political system. A fallacy with some currency is that apathetic Americans account for most of the unprecedented lows in voter participation. The truth is that millions of intelligent and caring observers perceive, and accurately so, that their votes count for precious little, and that their elected representatives are, in a word, unrepresentative – or rather not effectively representing anyone except the plutocrats who finance political campaigns. Instead elected officials are increasingly seen as “impotent, irrelevant, and dishonest.” Democracy is in serious crisis when, as Professor Noreena Hertz observes, the people’s “disengagement from politics” has reached a point unprecedented since the advent of universal suffrage. Pointedly she laments,
After the long fight for universal franchise, the great-granddaughters of women who chained themselves to railings for the vote are now making their political statement by refusing to buy politics.
These great-granddaughters ignore politics at their peril, however, because politics won’t ignore them. The answer to radical corruption of the political process is not escapism but radical reform.
One powerful reform is rotation in office, a.k.a. term limits. Rotation in office has proven historically to be a pillar in the structure of democracy, and yet devotees of incumbency denounce term limits as a dangerous and undemocratic idea. Hopefully this chapter will help to dispel misconceptions by demonstrating the safety and long history of rotation in office as an operative and effective democratic principle.
Rotation prevailed informally in the U.S. House of Representatives until the late 19th century. Prevailing by tradition rather than by law, the practice gave way in the 20th century to the desires and growing resources of incumbents to entrench themselves in power. A longer and more complete historical record for the mandating of rotation in office must be sought in ages prior to the formation of the American Republic. U.S. democracy is, after all, only a little more than two centuries old.
During antiquity rotation in office received a rigorous period of testing over several centuries, notably in the governments of ancient Rome and Greece. The institution of rotation in office did much to maintain democratic political systems during antiquity, and to inspire popular support for democracy. Surveying the features of democracy during his era, Aristotle included short terms of office as one key institution, complemented by the prohibition against reelection to the same office. The reasoning behind term limits was articulated by the great scholar, Aristotle the pupil of Plato, as follows.
When the state is framed upon the principle of equality and likeness of citizens, the citizens think that they ought to hold office by turns. Formerly, as is natural, everyone thought it proper to perform his services in rotation; and then again somebody else would look after his interests, just as he while in office had looked after theirs. But nowadays, for the sake of the advantage to be gained from the public revenues and from office, men want to be always in office. It is as if officeholders, being sickly, are always cured by holding office. For that would certainly make them go hunting after places as they do. The conclusion is evident; that political systems which regard the common advantage are framed in accordance with strict principles of justice, and are therefore true forms; but all political systems which regard only the advantage of officeholders are defective and perverted forms....
American democracy has of late tilted increasingly toward the interests of incumbent officeholders, verses the right of the people to representation that is democratic in method and spirit. Homesteading by incumbents in Congress is justified or rather rationalized by various theories, especially the idea that everything in current government demands expertise. Although the political scientist, Nelson Polsby, supports the pro-incumbent view, his study in the American Political Science Review is nonetheless revealing.
According to longtime UC Berkley Professor Polsby, a major development in the late 19th and the 20th century history of the House of Representatives has been what he calls the hardening of boundaries. As boundaries harden, three things are said to happen: turnover slows, entry into the office becomes more difficult, and internal leadership becomes professional and persists.
Slowing of turnover: Until the centennial year of American Independence, 1876, newcomers usually constituted a majority of the House. But as indicated by the upper line in figure 6:1, today's turnover is a faint shadow of the 19th century levels.
Figure 6.1 – House Turnover and the Principle of Rotation, 1790-1990.
Incumbents not seeking reelection, 1824-1990
This facet of hardening boundaries has developed to such an extent that the constitutional system of biennial elections does not prevent the House from rivaling in tenure both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Senate. Average tenures in the three bodies since World War II are as follows: Supreme Court, 11.7 years, Senate, 10.4 years, House, 10.1 years.
Difficulty of entry is another facet of hardening House boundaries. New men enter the House either by defeating the incumbent, or by filling a vacancy, usually resulting from withdrawal by an incumbent. Both methods, defeat and withdrawal, have undergone steep declines. In the forgoing figure 6.1, the lowest of the two lines indicates the trend in withdrawals over a 160 year time span. Figure 6.2 below shows the trend in incumbent defeats.
Figure 6.2 – % of incumbents defeated for reelection, 1830-1990,
with ten year moving average
Entry into the House by defeating the incumbent is, as seen in figure 6.2, some three times more difficult today than for a challenger in the mid-19th century. Even the election of 1994, which gave Republicans their first control of both Houses of Congress in 40 years, saw only nine percent of the House incumbents defeated (91 percent reelection rate). Not a single Republican incumbent in Congress lost in 1994, and even the Democrat House members won 84% of their reelection races despite one of their party’s most disastrous elections. The advantages of incumbency have magnified enormously, especially during the postmodernist era. Moreover, since 1962 even freshmen incumbents have had a lower defeat rate (12 percent) than incumbents of four or more terms before 1865 (19 percent). In other words, freshmen have exhibited more incumbent staying power in postmodernist politics than candidates of yesteryear who claimed no less than four terms as Congressmen.
In the case of withdrawals (see figure 6:1) the opportunities for new men to enter the House nowadays by filling vacancies are much rarer than for 19th century aspirants. From 1824-1896 an average of 37 percent of the seats in the House were voluntarily vacated each biennium, while since World War II the withdrawal rate has averaged under eight percent per term.
If incumbent Congressmen will not withdraw, why not defeat them at the polls? I would answer, in short, that the boundaries between the House and the people have hardened to the point that low popular esteem for Congress can no longer be expressed via defeat rates. During the quarter century after 1974 when Gallup began polling public approval of Congress, public regard for Congress ran at about one-third, with the remainder either unsure or expressing disapproval. A 1998 surge saw approval rating break the 50% level, but by 2003 it was back down to the sub-forty percent range. And yet as indicated in figure 6.3, low public esteem for Congress had little impact on congressional reelection rates, which ran consistently at 90 to 98 percent.
In still another facet of boundary hardening, the internal leadership of the House is seen to become professional and persist. Until 1815 Speakers of the House averaged less than five years House tenure before becoming Speaker. Henry Clay was elected Speaker in 1811 as a freshman Congressman.
Contrast the last four Speakers of the 20th century: Jim Wright, Tom Foley, Newt Gindrich and Dennis Hastert had been in the House for an average of 22 years before becoming Speaker. Over the course of the entire 20th century Congressmen averaged a quarter century of House tenure before moving into the office of Speaker.
The Polsby study examines other major characteristics of institutionalization. None is more damning to the present system than the hard
boundaries as a barrier between the citizenry and what is by design the most democratic chamber – the House of Representatives. The importance of redemocratizing the popular chamber of Congress overrides any advantages in the hardening of boundaries, for which there is ample room elsewhere in the federal apparatus. It is much more in conformity with the intent of the Framers to have a kind of oligarchy in the Senate – which is quasi-aristocratic by design – than to have an elite of federal careerists dominating the House. The Framers of the Constitution would be astounded that Congress has come to consist of two oligarchic assemblies, the equivalent of two upper houses.
This development undermines the original design for the legislative branch of government. At the same time it violates the principle stated early on by Aristotle, and confirmed down through the centuries, that essential to a stable constitution is a proper mix between oligarchy and democracy.
Among the pillars of political liberty are democracy and the integrity of public officials. We will consider them in turn.
The men who framed the U.S. Constitution considered the models offered by antiquity and were familiar with the "mixed constitution" of which Aristotle, Polybius, Cicero and Montesquieu had written, and which the 18th century English government seemed particularly to exhibit. As the underlying principles are timeless, they remain fundamental to our polity today.
The three basic elements of the mixed constitution were monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. In Philadelphia at the Convention of 1787, the Framers retained these three elements in a revised form suitable for a republic. Monarchy had become the Presidency, aristocracy the Senate, and democracy the House of Representatives. An influential contemporary of the Framers was Sir William Blackstone, the celebrated commentator on law, who observed:
Democracies are usually the best calculated to direct the end of a law; aristocracies to invent the means by which that end shall be obtained; and monarchies to carry those means into execution.
When political drift gradually converts the democratic chamber into an aristocratic or rather an oligarchic in-group of career Congressmen, the federal system loses its equilibrium and balance. Democracy in the House of Representatives ought to be a strong check to the oligarchic, bureaucratic, and imperial executive tendencies elsewhere in the structure of the Republic. Yet today's politics largely extinguishes this democratic flame, letting elitist government by and for the few exert a pervasive freeze throughout the federal government.In 1998, Rep. Tom Coburn announced self-imposed term limits:
After four years in congress, I believe more than ever that our nation's problems have been created because career politicians have set themselves apart as an elite class of people trying to dictate to us how we run our lives.
With Polsby some political scientists see the dramatic decline of congressional turnover in this century as a desirable component of postmodernism. Like virtually all opponents of rotation, they hasten to raise the issue of experience by demeaning short-term amateurs and by arguing for professionals in Congress to interface with the complexities of today's world.
Yet enclaves of expertise and specialization abound: in the mammoth Executive branch, in the Congress with its permanent staffs and six year term for the Senate (with unlimited opportunity for reelection), and in the Judicial Branch. A technological age does of course call for specialists and experts; but governments, and in particular legislatures, require balance and perspective. The ship of state, or rather “Democracy in America” (to use Tocqueville’s title), is heeling to the point of capsizing, when near monopolies of federal experts leave no room for populist outsiders, who tend to be more generalist in perspective and given to broader patterns of thought. Careerist monopoly in government squeezes out the popular element which can give realism and overview to policy decisions. We need to see the forest for the trees. To introduce, therefore, a more democratic class of Congressmen who stay in touch with the simplicity and lucidity of popular vision would counterbalance the narrow and sometimes tunnel vision of the experts. Careerism and expertise will remain prevalent, and rightly so, in other branches of the government, and in the upper house of Congress.
American trial procedure emphasizes professionalism through the judge and the lawyers, but through the twelve jurors the common sense of the citizenry. This system submits the arguments of legal experts to a verdict by generalists. Similarly, the military expertise in the Pentagon is subject to the overview of civilians. Likewise professional officialdom ought to work under scrutiny of the non-professionals and non-federals.
The realities of the political arena require more for real, de facto democracy than merely going to the polls occasionally. Extending popular control from its sporadic and remote role to steady proximity in the political arena, requires an instrument of democracy both powerful and operational on a day-to-day basis in Washington, D.C. The House of Representatives will never be democratic in the best sense of the term until the inside-the-beltway mindset, with its nuances ad nausaum, is subordinated to the straightforward and simple truths that govern thought and action in a healthy citizenry. The decline of such an outlook among the ancient Greeks was, according to the great historian Thucydides, a prime cause of the general deterioration of character throughout the Greek world. [Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 3.83]
The simplicity which is so large an
element in a noble nature
was laughed to scorn and disappeared.
One purpose of the rotation proposed here is to make the House of Representatives a sanctuary from what pioneering sociologist, Robert Michels, called the "iron law of oligarchy." If both houses of Congress remain oligarchic, the bicameral system is almost superfluous, lacking dualism of perspective. We merely have two chambers of oligarchs. Alternatively, the constellation amendment will restore the lower house of Congress to its intended role, i.e. a chamber where the power of the federal elite is minimized and the intensity of representative democracy is maximized.
I’m here, said he
To look out for thee.
You should savor what I do;
My departure you would rue.
So reelect me,
It’s best, you see
D.C. I should roam,
And never go home.
'Tis unkind to say,
I should go away.
Don’t be so firm
As to limit my term.
Go back you say?
Beyond the beltway?
Where people see clearly,
And earn their bread dearly?
No! I must abjure
To become obscure.
The people to dust!
Reelection or bust!
"No Uncertain Terms," (U.S. Term Limits, Dec. 2005), p. 6, poem by Bob Struble
Another aim of the rotation is to mitigate the Actonian tendency of political power to corrupt public officials. Aristotle put it succinctly: “it is not so easy to do wrong in a short as in a long tenure of office.” Two 20th century Presidents, representing both major parties, are among the many eyewitnesses down through history of the deleterious effects of power on character.
In my opinion eight years as President is enough and sometimes too much for any man to serve in that capacity. There is a lure in power. It can get into a man's blood just as gambling and lust for money have been known to do. Harry Truman, 1950.
It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshippers.... They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant. Calvin Coolidge, 1929.
Similar observations on the long-term consequences of power-holding span the centuries, from the ancient Greeks who warned against hubris, to recent scholarly studies in psychology. Early in the Middle Ages, for example, St. Pope Gregory the Great, warned against the timeless snare:
...beware lest the frail mind
becomes proud...for when it receives public recognition, it is liable to fall
into senseless conceit.
It is a common experience that in the school of adversity the heart is forced to discipline itself; but when a man has achieved supreme rule, it is at once changed and puffed up by the experience of his high estate.
...The human mind is prone to pride even when not supported by power; how much more, then, does it exalt itself when it has that support!
The influence of high estate on character cannot but apply also to members of the most prestigious and – until judicial usurpation – the most powerful body of lawmakers in the free world. Power corrupts not through dignitas, the form of pride which may involve healthy self-respect, but rather through the utterly self-centered pride of superbia by which a man becomes egotistical in mind and heart. The "man for all seasons," Sir Thomas More, singled out the latter form of pride as the "chief and parent of all plagues." In the 20th century too, social scientists have testified to the adverse "psychological metamorphosis" of leaders. As Robert Michels, wrote:
...The permanent exercise of leadership exerts upon the moral character of the leaders an influence which is essentially pernicious.... The consciousness of power always produces vanity, an undue belief in personal greatness.... It is certain that the exercise of power produces a profound and ineffaceable change in the character.
On the battlefield only the most incompetent general would keep fatigued men in the trenches under enemy fire for months or years, while confining rested reinforcements to behind the lines duty. Obviously the wiser tactic is to rotate the front line troops occasionally, thus resting the weary, pressuring the enemy with fresh contingents, and meanwhile creating a larger pool of veterans. Likewise in politics: marathon service by a relative few in the arrogance of power contributes to the moral exhaustion of officialdom. Any person's character is at risk,
In that fierce light which beats
upon a throne,
And blackens every blot.
(Tennyson, Idylls of the King)
The best political system will therefore take into account the adulation and conceits to which high officials are subjected. Although the Constitution is sophisticated in its separation of powers and its checks between organs of government, it is remiss and lax in terms of the threat power poses to Congressmen psychologically and spiritually. Rotation in office will meet this threat head on, and (as per sections 1-3) in an orderly and systematic way.
change politicians and diapers
for the same reason. Both get
sordid and soiled when they’ve
stayed on too long.
G.K.Chesterton is reputed to have observed that the great lesson of history is that mankind never profits by the lessons of history. Insofar as we fail to heed what the past tells us, the fault lies in part with leaders like Henry Ford who say that "history is bunk," or who hold that everything in ages past was inferior to its counterpart in the present. Today’s radical feminists loath the past because, they say, history before women’s suffrage is nothing but a chronicle of the crimes committed by dead white men. Such an attitude toward history led to many of the absurdities and tragedies of the French Revolution. The historian Thomas Babington Macaulay laments the myopia of the legislators in revolutionary France who failed to consult the historical record for its recommendations and warnings. “All their agreeable associations were connected with the future,” says Macaulay.
Many years had gone away,
The olden days were done to stay,
Yea, that’s the shelf where they did lay,
All the rules of yesterday.
To the French revolutionaries “all the past was loathsome,” complains Macaulay, so much so that a mob destroyed in a public bonfire the few remaining relics of the “savior of France,” St. Joan of Arc, including the banner that had accompanied her into battle. The Jacobins disdained also the wisdom of such French sages as Jean Bodin, who had observed, “the study of history is the beginning of political wisdom.”
Neither did the French revolutionists heed that leader of an earlier and successful revolution in the thirteen British colonies, Patrick Henry, who had said: "I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past."
Scorn for the past is what Christopher Derrick calls "that most prevalent failing – Pride of Century or Generation, Chronological Pride." Intellects burdened with generational arrogance – chronological chauvinism – will tend to belittle historical analogies in direct proportion to the chronological remoteness of the lesson to be drawn. Beyond their comprehension is Winston Churchill's observation, "the longer you look back, the farther you can look forward."
With Churchill we assert that we are not here engaged in a mere academic exercise. Rather we fear to overlook any historical insights that pertain to the present. Our firm conviction is that reforms will fail the test of history that do not take history into account. And so we look to the past as a prologue – not as a blueprint of course, but for its object lessons.
Mural by Juan O’Gorman, 1968, National museum of History, Mexico City. INAH
There are numerous examples in political history of laws requiring rotation in office. In Mexico early in the 20th century the revolutionary era President, Francisco Madero, popularized the slogan, “Sufragio Efectivo – no Reelección” (effective suffrage, no reelection). The Mexican Constitution states that the Mexican congress be divided into a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies, and that “Deputies and Senators cannot be reelected for the next immediate term.” For close to a century the principle of one-term-rotation in office has applied both to the congress and to the Presidency of Mexico. In spite of that, the decades of political domination by a single party system (PRI) greatly retarded the development of operative democracy in 20th century Mexico.
In the United States, we have at least five categories of term-limits laws which remain on the books.
First, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1951) mandates term-limits for the nation's highest office, ordinarily after eight years or two Presidential terms. This constitutional system reflects the earlier tradition, unbroken until 1940, under which even powerful and popular leaders like Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt left the Presidency voluntarily after two terms. The first President to complete the full service allowable under the 22nd Amendment, Dwight D. Eisenhower, not only approved the Amendment but proposed the extension of tenure limits to Congress as well. His predecessor, Harry Truman, had done likewise.
Second, 38 of the 50 state constitutions limit consecutive service as governor. Virginia forbids successive reelection after one term, Utah after 12 years; most states put the gubernatorial limit at two terms.
Third, a development during the elections of 1990-94 was the adoption of term limits for state legislatures in almost every state where citizens had the power of the initiative. In 17 states term limits for the legislative branch have survived the incumbent reaction of the late 1990’s. Arkansas, California and Michigan allow six years in the state assembly (or house of representatives) and eight years for the state senate. Elsewhere the two houses of the legislature rotate uniformly – except Oklahoma where solons may serve a maximum of twelve years in the legislature. Nebraska limits service in its Unicameral to eight years.
Fourth, during 1990’s, 23 states limited service in their delegation to Congress, with the general formula being three terms [six years] in the U.S. House and two terms [twelve years] in the U.S. Senate. These laws are no longer enforceable, however, as a result of lawsuits filed by term limits foes including ousted Speaker of the House, Tom Foley. In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned congressional term limits, voiding them throughout the nation.
Where rotation in the legislative branch has withstood the various incumbent protection measures, term limits remain as popular as always. As of 2002 U.S. Term Limits reported that in the 15 states where state legislators serve in rotation, public support for term limits ranged from 60 to 78 percent.
A fifth form of precedent is in the U.S. military. Federal law has required since 1947 a rotation of the highest officer in the Armed Forces, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Another law enacted in 1958 (amended 1986, 1988) mandates a turnover in the Joint Staff itself, whose membership ranges up to 1627 officers and civilians. The rotation applies only to officers and is enforced by requiring an interval of two years before an officer can repeat the three to four year tour of duty on the Joint Staff.
A rationale here is to avoid the Prussian model of a permanent general staff. When officers homestead in the joint headquarters, their military doctrine and knowledge of field command becomes stale. They loose touch with their own branches of the services. By staying in the same post they stagnate. Consequently the military has been anxious to see turnover in the joint arena, and Congress has mandated it for the Joint Staff.
On the eve of Independence, June 1776, the continental congress appointed a committee of thirteen to consider a frame of government. Among the proposals the committee considered was one from the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, and urging a limitation of tenure, "to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress...." A month later the committee made its recommendations, which as regards the rotation of congress were incorporated unchanged into the Articles of Confederation (1781-1789). The fifth Article provided that "no person shall be capable of being a delegate [to the continental congress] for more than three years in any term of six years."
It is no surprise that a period of revolutionary fervor and idealism should beget strong backing for the highly democratic principle of rotation. The year 1776 saw rotation experiments at the State level as well. Pennsylvania's new constitution remained in force from 1776-1790; it set maximum service in the state legislature at "four years in seven." Benjamin Franklin's influence is evident here, not only because he was the chairman of the constitutional convention which drafted the Pennsylvania constitution, but also because the constitution included, virtually unchanged, Franklin's earlier proposals on executive rotation. Pennsylvania's plural executive consisted of twelve persons, each elected for the term of three years, followed by a mandatory vacation of four years.
The Pennsylvania constitution, like that "government of supplication," the Articles of Confederation, had a number of fundamental flaws, not the least of which was the unsuitability of rotation in a unicameral (single chamber) legislature. The absence of an upper chamber of the legislature to which the most distinguished and able legislators might advance, and in which career service was permissible, made the system of rotation indiscriminate and overembracing. Similar immoderation was soon repeated in the two earliest constitutions to be established by the French Revolution. Such rotations of the entire legislative branch were vulnerable to the kind of pro-incumbent arguments advanced in 1787 by Dr. Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania. Rush wrote that the rotation wasted legislative experience, and that government would "never be perfected in America, until we encourage men to devote not only three years, but their whole lives to it."
Had an upper house existed that remained open to career service, a quite different set of incentives would have applied. Since the number of incumbent legislators would have outnumbered the career places, competition would have been a stimulus to effective performance both in the lower house in order to qualify for advancement to the senate, and in the upper house in order to stave off the challengers from below.
Perhaps such considerations were raised among the seven member Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. In 1787, during the first week of the Convention, Governor Edmund Randolph introduced the celebrated Virginia Plan, under which the national legislature was to be bicameral, with only the lower house in rotation. The fourth resolution in the Virginia Plan read as follows:
Res[olved] that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States every for the term of;___...to be incapable of reelection for the space of ___after the expiration of their term of service; and to be subject to recall.
The Virginia Plan had the upper chamber subject neither to rotation nor recall. During the fourth week, however, the Convention rejected the ban on consecutive terms in the lower chamber. No doubt, mandatory tenure limits had been discredited somewhat by association with the unfortunate Articles of Confederation. This association together with the technical considerations discussed in the appendix at the end of this chapter help to explain the complete absence of rotation provisions in the Constitution. The Convention delegates defeated also the various plans to ban or restrict reelection in the Presidency.
Two of the leading theorists for democracy, Jefferson and James Madison, disagreed on the issue of rotation. Jefferson was a supporter of both executive and legislative rotation, but his presence in France as U.S. Ambassador gave more influence on the Convention floor to Madison who opposed rotation. Also against rotation was delegate Alexander Hamilton, a monarchist with little enthusiasm for democracy itself.
Still another possible factor in the abandonment of a constitutional system of rotation is that some Convention delegates were farsighted enough in 1787 to foresee much of what did in fact happen for the next century or so. Due largely to grass roots support for rotation, combined with popular election of the House, rapid turnover in that body prevailed by extra-constitutional means. However, at the time of ratification, several leading statesmen regarded the lack of mandatory limits to tenure as a dangerous defect, especially, they thought, as regards the Presidency and interestingly enough, the Senate. Richard Henry Lee viewed the absence of legal limits to tenure, together with certain other features of the Constitution, as "most highly and dangerously oligarchic." Both Jefferson and George Mason advised limits on reelection to the Senate and to the Presidency, because said Mason, "nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation." One of our Founding Mothers, the historian Mercy Otis Warren, warned that "there is no provision for a rotation, nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done...."
The fact that "perpetuity in office" was not approached until the 20th century is attributable in part to the conceptual influence of rotation as a popular idea in the 19th century. "Ideas are, in truth, forces," and rotation in office was then supported so firmly, especially in the localities, that it altered political practice. For a detailed study of the 19th century concepts of rotation and their contribution to turnover in the House of Representatives, the reader should consult Political Science Quarterly, vol. 94, "House Turnover and the Principle of Rotation," by Robert Struble, Jr. Also James Young's The Washington Community, 1800-1828 is an important source on the period before the Jacksonian revolution.
According to Young, the tendency to look askance at political power was so ingrained into American culture that even the officeholders themselves perceived their occupations in a disparaging light. The novelist James Fennimore Cooper articulated in 1838 the common conviction that "contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed." In 1822 an article in the Richmond Enquirer stated that the "long cherished" principle of rotation in office had been impressed on the republican mind "by a kind of intuitive impulse, unassailable to argument or authority."
Up to this point in history the concept of rotation was conceived in basically the same theoretical mold as during the American Revolution; only its application differed, being extraconstitutional and informal rather than mandated by law as during the old Articles of Confederation. Beginning about the 1830's, however, the rise of the Jacksonians introduced an entirely new meaning into the philosophy and practice of rotation. For both major parties rotation in office came to embrace the doctrine of taking turns in the distribution of political prizes. Rotation of nominations to the House – the prizes – became an important element in a system of payoffs to the party faithful. The leading troops in the local party apparatus came to regard a nomination or two for the House as "salary" which the party owed them. A new code of political ethics evolved, based on the simple proposition that turnabout is fair play. After the Jacksonians, in short, rotation of nominations became closely linked with the spoils system.
In some cases the spoils were shared by agreement among competitors. After Jackson, district conventions dominated the nominations picture until the advent of direct primaries early in the 20th century. In district nominating conventions local leaders held sway and could reach and enforce agreements to pass the nominations around among themselves. Abraham Lincoln was elected to the House in 1846 under such an agreement, and he returned to private law practice after a single congressional term because, said he, "to enter myself as a competitor of another, or to authorize anyone so to enter me, is what my word and honor forbid."
Another method of nomination rotation was the claim of locality, or geographic rotation, whereby the seat in Congress was passed from town to town, or county to county, each claiming in its turn the honor of furnishing the member. In 1866 such a system characterized New York State according to Horace Greeley.
The practice of nomination rotation for the House of Representatives began to decline after the Civil War. It took a generation or so before the direct primary system and other factors eliminated the rotation of nominations as a common political practice.
In summary, rotation based on the original anti-power concepts of the American Revolution appealed philosophically to the popular wisdom, whereas aspiring politicians were charmed by the version of rotation based on the Jacksonian spoils principle. Upon association of these two versions of rotation, the turnover of Congressmen redoubled in the short-run (see figure 6.1), but in the long-term, spoils tainted and discredited the concept of rotation. The disrepute of rotation in the U.S. House was in contrast to the two-term tradition in the Presidency, which became almost sacrosanct. Perhaps the geographic spread of the hundreds of nominating conventions, coupled with the lack of a constitutional system of nonpartisan rotation, made it inevitable that the extraconstitutional practice would sooner or later be politicized and diverted from service to the Republic as a whole. As it happened, rotation was distorted about the 1830's into philosophy and policy quite different from the original. When the movement against the spoils system triumphed, the way was clear for the dominance of careerism in the House — notwithstanding that an oligarchy of incumbents would have been anathema to a great many of the founders of the Republic. Thus, the professionalization of the House during the late 19th and the 20th centuries represented a counterrevolution, slow but sweeping, against an original principle of the American Revolution. The fruit of this counterrevolution is the mandarin and mercenary Congress of the late 20th century.
Some of the theoretical formulas employed to justify rotation in the thirteen breakaway colonies, and in Europe before that, remain quite valid today simply because their premises were human behavior. Human beings were much the same during the horse and buggy days as they are in the space age. People are people irrespective of the historical era in which they act upon life's stage. Technology alters man's external conveniences – his weapons, amenities, and mobility – but it changes little his internal drives like ambition for power and the pride of high office. Whether written on papyrus or a computer, the principles premised on human behavior are timeless and applicable to any age.
It has been said that the pro-rotation theories of the American Revolution were just a bunch of losing arguments. On the other hand one could retort that by failing to heed such arguments the Framers of the Constitution are ultimately responsible for the condition of Congress today. In defense of the Framers it should be said that 18th century politics, with its informal rotation, made the rationale for a mandatory rotation less than pressing. Moreover, while human nature is a constant, the means accessible to power-holders may change radically. The Framers could hardly have foreseen the technology that postmodern incumbents apply to public relations at taxpayer expense — like the banks of congressional computers that spill out wave after wave of publicly financed propaganda to constituents.
Nevertheless, many 18th century Americans did perceive the danger to democracy inherent in unrestricted incumbency. How much more pertinent is their reasoning now that the advantages of incumbency are no longer in their infancy but in full-grown potency!
In January, 1776, John Adams, the future President, assessed American opinion on the eve of Independence:
A rotation of all offices, as well as of representatives and counselors, has many advocates, and is contended for with many plausible arguments.... These persons may be allowed to serve for three years, and then be excluded three years, or for any longer or shorter term.
Debate on rotation was conducted in print most intensively during the years 1774-1776, before the continental congress approved the Articles of Confederation; and the debate raged again during the months before ratification of the U.S. Constitution, 1787-1788. In support of rotation several theoretical lines of reasoning developed. Americans then considered rotation in office necessary in order,
(1) to perpetuate liberty and check tyranny,
(2) to prevent governmental callousness to the popular interest,
(3) to protect legislators individually from the adverse psychological influence of power,
(4) to avert corruption and maladministration in government generally, including the baneful hardening of factions,
(5) to diffuse political understanding more widely in society.
The founders of the republic articulated the first point as follows. During June 1776, in a public letter – anonymous as was common during the Revolution – a Maryland writer observed that, "a rotation of power, a rotation of office, with moderate salaries, are the best and most effectual means to preserve the liberties of the people." Another writer argued in that year for an annual or at least a frequent rotation of magistrates as the way "most likely to prevent usurpation and tyranny." Along a similar line, the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 stated that one object of a mandatory turnover was to prevent "an inconvenient aristocracy" of officeholders. And later during the ratification debate of 1788, perhaps the most prolific advocate of rotation, Richard Henry Lee, contended that insofar as the executive and judicial departments must have relative permanence in office – given the nature of their duties – the best hope of keeping government "congenial to the people" resided in the national legislature [Congress]. As Lee put it:
If it is not, therefore, in our power to preserve republican principles, for a series of ages, in all the departments of government, we may a long while preserve them in a well formed legislature. To this end we ought to take every precaution to prevent legislators becoming mere office-men; choose them frequently, make them recallable, establish rotation among them, make them ineligible to offices, and give them as small a share as possible in the disposal of them.
A second line of argument was that rotation would promote a proximity of the official interest to the public interest. Rotation in office would impress upon the minds of legislators the idea that they are soon to return to a civilian status; from which situation, said Gilbert Livingston of Duchess, N.Y., "this good effect will follow: they will consider their interests as the same with those of their constituents, and that they legislate for themselves as well as others." George Mason of Virginia put it in similar words.
A like argument by John Lansing of Albany, N.Y., was that intervals of ineligibility would assist legislators to "recover that knowledge of [the people's] interests, and revive that sympathy with their feelings, which power and an exalted station are too apt to efface from the minds of rulers."
A third theoretical point was that rotation would not only reduce the legislator's callousness to the popular interest, but would check the corrupting influence of power upon the incumbent's own character. "Few, very few, are fortified against the bewitching charms of power, and the pleasant sweets of emolument," observed a writer in 1776. During his term in 1785 as president of the continental congress, R.H. Lee wrote to Samuel Adams: "The fact is that power poisons the mind of its possessor." Confirmation of the view that power tends to turn the head, was seen by another pro-rotation writer in the haughtiness and insolence which frequently follow the attainment of supreme command. Still another exponent of this view was Mercy Otis Warren of Massachusetts. She contended that rotation serves as a "check to the overbearing insolence of office, which by rendering him ineligible at certain periods, keeps the mind of man in equilibrio."
A fourth line of reasoning saw rotation as a check to corruption and maladministration in government collectively. An entire branch or system of government was prone to degenerate without "that motion to power and authority necessary to preserve it from corruption." A prime danger for the legislative branch in particular was considered to be the hardening of factions, which rotation alone could break up or prevent from solidifying. In 1788 Lansing of New York noted that the continental congress had included at different times "violent parties," a malady which the rotation had remedied "more than any other thing." Melanchton Smith, a former member of the congress and the key figure in ratification of the U.S. Constitution by New York State, addressed his State's ratifying convention. A rotation Amendment, said Smith,
...will be the best means to extinguish the factions which often prevail, and which are sometimes so fatal to legislative bodies. This appears to me an important consideration. We have generally found that perpetual bodies have either combined in some scheme of usurpation, or have been torn and distracted with cabals. Both have been the source of misfortunes to the state.... Our Congress would have been a fine field for party spirit to act in. That body would undoubtedly have suffered all the evils of faction, had it not been secured by the rotation established by the Articles of Confederation.
A fifth theoretical point was that rotation would spread political experience from the federal government to the people of the States and localities; while conversely and perhaps reciprocally, more talent would pass from the citizenry into the government. Lee contended that by increasing the number of those who serve in Congress and subsequently return to the localities, rotation would "spread information, and preserve a spirit of activity and investigation among the people." A similar point had been stated in the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776.
The other half of this principle is more applicable today, namely that the offices opened by rotation would encourage an increased flow of virtue and talent from the populace into government; or as Lee put it, rotation would "draw in turn the well informed of every class into the legislature. Melanchton Smith of New York elaborated:
It is a circumstance strongly in favor of rotation, that it will have a tendency to diffuse a more general spirit of emulation, and to bring forward into office the genius and abilities of the continent: the ambition of gaining the qualifications necessary to govern will be in some proportion to the chances of success. If the office is to be perpetually confined to a few, other men, of equal talents and virtue, but not possessed of so extensive an influence, may be discouraged from aspiring to it.
The theoretical framework for rotation appears to have been more elaborate during the American Revolution than the earlier conceptual counterparts in Europe. Still, the extant theory from the European past merits our attention, not only because it exerted influence upon the views held by the founders of the American republic, who revered the classics; but also because the actual cases of rotation in the major governments of antiquity and the Renaissance serve as models that were tested over very extensive periods of time. From these models we can learn much that is applicable to today's politics. Some of these historical systems proved quite durable, lasting far longer indeed than the mere two centuries of the American experiment. The Venetian system endured for six centuries, and the republic of Rome some 3½ centuries, B.C.
On the continent of Europe at the time of the American Revolution, the Venetian republic was the foremost political framework to have resisted the European consensus then favoring monarchy. No doubt the educated class in America had some familiarity with the institutions of this relatively small but long independent state. Although the upper class culture in Venice had been effete and degenerate for several generations, the excellence of her institutions compensated somewhat and preserved the republic until the Napoleonic conquest. Moreover, any American acquainted with the history of Western Civilization knew that during the Renaissance Venice had been "queen of the Adriatic" and a great European power, ruling also an extensive empire in the Near East.
the far times, when many a subject land
Look'd to the winged Lion's marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state,
thron'd on her hundred isles! (Byron)
Once did she hold the gorgeous east
And was the safeguard of the west. (Wordsworth)
For some 600 years until 1797, the government of Venice changed little in constitutional form; it was an aristocratic republic ruled by a few thousand nobles, in which the highest magistrate, the doge', was elected for life but with greatly restricted powers. The chief authority of government resided in the inner circle as it was called, consisting of some 16 elected nobles all but one of whom – the doge' – were rotated rapidly. The rate of rotation was at least every year with perhaps a two year interval required before reelection to the same office. In the numerous lesser offices too, excepting the senate, the nobles served in rotation, usually for terms of six, eight or twelve months.
Though never a democracy in the modern sense – except for the limited constituency of nobles – the Venetian republic had long been hailed as the epitome of stability, and was much admired by political writers available in English translation at the time of the American Revolution. One such writer, Cardinal Gaspero Contarini, was himself a Venetian during his country's golden age. In his Commonwealth and Government of Venice (1509) Contarini discoursed at length on the advantages of shared distribution of power among the nobles, and he heaped particular praise on the practice of annual rotation in the powerful council of ten. Without the rotation, observed the Cardinal, the key domestic power of the council of ten would neither have been safe if delegated permanently to a few, nor formidable if committed to many.
Here Contarini points to an important and timeless principle: rotation of powerholders renders power safer. But without rotation, peril looms in proportion to the power delegated.
A prime historical example of this danger emerged later during the French Revolution. In the Comite de Salut Public – the infamous Committee of Public Safety — sat Robspierre, Couthon, St. Just, serving monthly terms and yet always reelected during the period of the Reign of Terror. Significantly, one of the two first acts of the national convention of France after Thermidor delivered France from the Terror was to institute term limits. Mandatory rotation applied to the governing committees, including Salut Public, a fourth part of the committee memberships being changed monthly.
The Venetian system was seen by the pre-Revolution French philosopher, Montesquieu, as a kind of democracy for the aristocracy. To maintain even this quasi-democracy was contingent, according to Montesquieu, upon a rapid (perhaps annual) rotation, because the monarchical and genuinely democratic elements in Venice were too weak to check potential usurpation by ambitious aristocrats. "In all magistracies," said he, "it is necessary to compensate for the greatness of a power by the brevity of the office's duration."
Another student of Venetian institutions and a supporter of rotation in office was James Harrington, the author of Oceania (1656), a work influential during the American Revolution. Harrington was a republican whom Charles II committed to the tower of London for his political views. Harrington had dared to propose a triennial rotation for the English parliament as well as the extension of suffrage to the whole people, not just the privileged classes. He saw prolongation in office as destroying "the life or natural motion of a commonwealth." Harrington cited various forms of flux in the natural world as proof of the stability of motion generally, and as evidence that rotation would promote not dissolution of government but "duration and steadiness."
The Italian Renaissance saw the application of rotation to other independent states, including the Tuscan republics of Siena, Lucca and Florence. In these volatile city-states or communes, the government was generally headed by a plural executive whose members rotated every two months. For roughly a century and a half prior to the Medici autocracy, the foremost of the Tuscan republics, Florence, was governed by six to nine priors serving for two months, with reelection possible only after an interval of two years.
According to an early 16th century Florentine, Francesco Guicciardini, whose History of Italy was available in English translation at the time of the American Revolution, "much Confusion was occasioned in the Government of the Republic," due to the changing every two months of the supreme magistracy. This assessment must have been shared by the Americans during their Revolution, who rarely if ever proposed a general rotation more rapid than biennial.
Notwithstanding the radical nature of a system in which the government automatically changed six times per year — and when furthermore (unlike Venice) the rotation was combined with election by lot — Florence did rise under this form of government to become the chief commercial city in Western Europe before the discovery of the New World. Guicciardini's history portrays rotation as a major element in political liberty, but he favors a more moderate form closer to that of the Venetian model. Even Guicciardini's Florentine contemporary, Nicolo Machiavelli, whose cynicism about the use of power has given us the word Machiavellian, did regard rotation as expedient where the form of government was republican. In his Discourses Machiavelli attributed the demise of the ancient Roman republic to the lapse of rotation in the tribunate and the consulship, leading respectively to civil insurrections and military despotism.
Perhaps no model but that of England was more studied or emulated by the founders of the American Republic than the republic of Rome. A number of the Founding Fathers had the benefits of higher education, and in the 18th century a man was not thought learned who lacked a knowledge of classical civilization with its richness in literature, philosophy and history.
From the fifth to the first century, B.C., Rome rose from a city-state confined to central Italy, to an empire with hegemony over the Mediterranean world. Throughout this period of expansion her government was republican in form. The republic of Rome endured for more than 3½ centuries, giving way to the autocracy of warlords during the first century, B.C. The lapse of rotation was one key factor in the rise of Cornelius Sulla and Julius Caesar, dictators who swept away the republic and ended ancient democracy forever.
The origins of rotation in the Roman government trace directly back to the 5th century, B.C. About the time of the law of the Twelve Tables, the Roman senate passed a resolution declaring it, "the sense of the senate that for magistrates to succeed themselves and for the same tribunes to be re-elected was contrary to the general welfare." The ten tribunes of the plebs, the most democratically inclined of Roman officials, were elected by the popular assembly to a one year term. About 457 B.C. annual rotation in the tribunate became mandatory by law.
In c. 342 B.C. the mandatory rotation was extended as well to the supreme military and civil magistracy of Rome, the consulship, which consisted of two men elected to a term of one year. The roman constitution forbad reelection until an interval of ten years had elapsed. As fully developed the practice of annual rotation remained in force until 104 B.C., and extended to all the major officials in Rome except the senate, which consisted of ex-magistrates with life tenures contingent on good behavior.
According to the historian Leon Pol Homo, the consular rotation was a pillar of the system whereby the state held the consuls in check and, through the consuls, controlled the Roman legions. During the centuries that the two supreme commanders of the military remained in rotation, the army propelled Rome from obscurity to supremacy in the Mediterranean world, and yet the military never intervened in civilian matters or indulged in military coups. But after the violation of consular rotation during the five illegal consulships of Gaius Marius (104-100 B.C.), the loyalty of the legions shifted away from the Senatus Populusque Romanus, and semi-permanent military figures usurped the helm of state. In 88 B.C. such a commander, Sulla, marched his troops into the capital city and made himself dictator, establishing a precedent often repeated in imperial Rome.
Again we see the principle that rotation makes power safer, as here indicated by the tyrannies that followed the lapse of consular rotation under Marius. A generation earlier the populist leaders, Tiberius Gracchus [in 132 B.C]. and Gaius Gracchus [in 122 B.C.], had undermined popular support for rotation by standing for consecutive reelection to the office of tribune, thus preparing the public for Marius to do likewise. It is no coincidence that the end of ancient democracy coincided with the dismantling of rotation in office.
Sulla's death occasioned a brief and tumultuous revival of republican institutions, including the rise of Marcus Tullius Cicero to fame in the senate. But after the first triumvirate (Pompey, Caesar, Crassus) reduced the magistrates and senators to the status of vassals, Cicero became a man of letters. He was not without hope, however, for restoration of the republic. In On Laws, written about 52 B.C., Cicero proposed a return to the ten year interval law which had rotated top officials in the republic during its zenith. Cicero's argument on behalf of the rotation is that by proper disposition of political offices public moderation is held together, and to this end, "it ought to be that both he who is a subject hopes eventually to rule, and he who is a ruler knows that in a short time he will himself be a subject."
The Augustan Age historian, Livy, implies another reason that the Roman republic had favored rotation in office: the early Romans feared the political effects of "cupiditatis imperii," the incumbent's lust or greed for power.
Finally we look to the southeastern corner of Europe where democracy first developed. According to Aristotle the democrats of Greece believed that a prime element in liberty was "to govern and be governed in turns." Variations on the same theme would be advanced by George Mason and others during the American Revolution; indeed Aristotle's The Politics was more commonly read in 18th century educated society than in today's college curriculums. A recurrent theme in The Politics is that the existence of permanent officeholders is contrary to democracy.
From the sixth through the fourth centuries, B.C. many of the Greek city-states were governed by institutions which were democratic to varying degrees. Sparta employed, for example, a mixed constitution in which dyarchy and aristocracy were represented respectively by two kings and a council of elders with life tenure; to both, however, the democratic element of government was a strong counterpoise. The most potent representative of the demos or people, was the Ephorate – a panel of five citizens who rotated annually. The power of the board of Ephors was preeminent, notwithstanding that the other major offices were perpetually held. Symbolically, each member of the Ephorate remained seated in the presence of a Spartan dyarch; everyone else irrespective or rank was obliged to rise in deference to either of the kings. For us the significant point is that rotation makes power safer but not necessarily weaker.
In perhaps no city-state of antiquity did the partisans of democracy shape government as totally to the democratic ideal of the day as in Athens. By 462 B.C., Athenian democrats had managed permanently to subordinate every public office to a direct democracy of the popular assembly and its steering committee, the council of 500.
In this council, from 500 to 650 citizens served a one year term to which they were elected by lot. Athenian law prohibited a citizen from serving two annual terms in succession, or from being a member of the council of 500 more than twice during his lifetime. For a startling analogy, imagine changing the entire membership of the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, every January.
Although less potent than today’s U.S. Congress, the powers of the council of 500 included control over the agenda of the popular assembly. The latter, the assembly, was a kind of day to day plebiscite, consisting of the entire citizen body (or as many as attended on a given day). It was all powerful in theory, but in practice the assembly’s legislative power applied to nothing but the bills which had been approved by the council of 500. The council exercised, then, an absolute veto over legislation, giving it considerably more power in the legislative arena than the U.S. Constitution gives the President, whose limited veto Congress can override by two-thirds.
The voting population of Athens was about one-fifth the size of the electorate in a single U.S. Congressional district. The size of the citizen body may in itself account for the second non-consecutive term a councilman could serve under the Athenian constitution — doubling the pool of eligible citizens would be a practical factor if men were away at war or otherwise unavailable to serve. In baseball the pitching rotation requires a change of pitchers every game, but teams cannot carry a bullpen large enough to cover 162 games, so pitchers return to the lineup at regular intervals. But if one baseball game were compared to one congressional term, with the quarter million or so eligible citizens in a congressional district as the bullpen, there would be no conceivable demographic urgency to allow second terms. But carrying this sporting analogy a little further, you may say that managers want their best pitchers continually returning to the lineup. Likewise in congressional politics: the proven statesmen can return indefinitely as U.S. Senators (section 1:2).
Until 322 B.C. when Greek democracy gave way to the Macedonian conquest, Athens employed rotation in office with a vengeance, not only in the council but even in the administrative posts. Among a populace for whom pure democracy had become a virtual cult, rotation was cherished as an institution democratic in its operation and influence. History tends, therefore, to contradict the view that restricting reelection is anti-democratic because it limits the voters' freedom. On the contrary, ever since the era when democracy first appeared in Western Civilization, rotation in office has served to make more operative and energetic the populist propensities of a given constituency.
As might be expected, mankind's first great experiment in democracy was far from consummate perfection. As with all the democratic governments of antiquity, the electorate in Athens was greatly restricted: only a minority of the populace could vote. The democratic process excluded women, slaves and residents born to non-Athenians.
Another weakness of Athenian democracy was elucidated by James Madison in the Federalist Papers. Madison lamented the absence of a senate in Athens to check the errors and delusions that found temporary ascendancy in the popular impulse. The life-tenured council of areopagus had once played such a role. In 462 B.C., however, the Athenians deprived that council of its power and reduced it to a debating society, comparable to today's House of Lords in Great Britain.
With Madison, let us concur on the necessity of a check to democracy in the legislative branch itself. Hence the explicit retention of reeligibility to the Senate for an unlimited series of reelections. At the same time, by means of a rapid rotation in the other chamber, the constellation law checks oligarchy and greatly enhances democracy (within the framework of a republic).
American government would thus take on a more distinctly bicameral look, with the Senate providing the erudition and expertise that comes from long service. The upper house would retain the role that George Washington himself is said to have indicated for the Senate: “the saucer to ‘cool’ the passions of the House members.”
In the House, meanwhile, the popular impulse would burn like a furnace, radiating its heat throughout the federal system.
This is much the same mix that Aristotle described as “polity,” i.e. a sharing of power between oligarchic and democratic elements but leaning toward the latter. The polity becomes an aristocracy when the mix leans toward oligarchy; but as the populist element gets excluded from the mix, the aristocracy degenerates into pure oligarchy. Aristotle’s aristocracy calls to mind Howard Baker’s characterization of our own “mandarin Congress.” Until the House of Representatives serves once again as the champion of the general populace, democracy as an operative principle in Washington, D.C. will remain little more than pretense..
In terms of political structure, the constitutions of antiquity and of the late Middle Ages were poorly developed. Structural qualities like sharply defined separations of powers were unknown; checks and balances were crude. Yet the heavy use of rotation within these governmental structures shows a well developed solicitude for the human factor in power, as distinguished from the structural factor.
The great strength of the old democracies and republics relative to their nearby adversaries – which were larger but more autocratic – indicates that the democratic way of subordinating politicians did a lot to compensate for structural flaws. If the United States can combine the latter-day sophistication in governmental structure with the time tested principle of rotation within that structure, we may reveal a political order that merits widespread emulation beyond our borders. To date in history, such a combination has never been tried. Here indeed is an occasion to resume the noblest traditions of the American experiment.
The system of rotation set forth in the constellation amendment was summarized in chapter three and is detailed formally in the constellation law. Briefly to recapitulate: The House of Representatives would rotate, but not the Senate. Every two years, 435 Representatives would begin service as tribunes, and would advance in stages to the single term in the House of Representatives. This staged promotion, or path of service, would be 50 months in duration, as follows: tribunate (two years), transition (two months), Congress (two years).
Thus the 435 would serve two years and two months in federal duties preparatory to the biennium in the House of Representatives. At any point in time there would be at least two Representatives per district, and briefly three, advancing their way through the path of service. Unscheduled vacancies in the path of service due to death, disability, retirement or recall would be filled as provided by state law.
Figure 6.4: Sequence from one Congress to the next as staggered
Chronology for officeholder: read horizontally.
Chronology for whole, read down diagonally to right
Promotion to private citizenship; U.S. Senate candidate? LAB (local advisory board)
Tribunate (2 years)
Transition (2 months)
Congress – (House of Rep., 2 years)
← PATH OF SERVICE, 50 months (4 years, 2 months) →
To private citizenship, or U.S. Senate, or Ex. Branch?? (LAB)
Transition (60 days)
Congress – next
← PATH OF SERVICE, 50 months (4 years, 2 months) −→
private citizens, LAB, etc.
Tribunes / Ombudsmen
Next House of Rep
One of the practical considerations requisite to a successful application of rotation is determining a suitable speed of turnover. Recent proposals to limit tenure by congressional action look far too mild when viewed in historical perspective. For example only three of sixteen such bills introduced in the 95th Congress would have limited tenure in either House to less than twelve years. The most restrictive of the state legislation enacted during the 1990’s was six years for the U.S. House and twelve for the U.S. Senate. (All such state laws were overturned by our black-robed politburo). By contrast, average tenure in the House of Representatives through the 19th century was 4.4 years.
Centuries earlier in Europe the most common rate of mandatory rotation was annual, characterizing such stable republics as Sparta, Rome and Venice. Even the Tuscan extreme of governmental turnover every two months, or monthly in the Dalmatian republic of Dubrovnik, coincided with centuries of cultural and economic prosperity.
With respect to historical benchmarks down through many centuries, the rotation after three years in the U.S. continental congress was moderate. But Dwight D. Eisenhower's proposal in 1965 to limit congressional tenure to twelve years, echoed a quarter century later by George Bush the elder, is so excessively cautious that it would be tokenistic and almost worthless. The average tenure at the end of the Congresses of 1947 to 1987 was: Senate 10.4 years; House, 10.1 years. A twelve year limit would allow incumbents more than what they average already. It would mean a ceiling on tenure rivaling average tenure in the U.S. Supreme Court where Justices can serve for life.
At best the slow versions of rotation would retire the intra-House oligarchy. (See, for example, James L. Payne's 1991 study in Public Interest, no. 103, pp. 115-17). By contrast, the rapid one-term version of rotation would eliminate the greater oligarchy as well, i.e. the whole House of Representatives, all 435 members, not just the upper echelons.
In terms of duration, or speed of rotation, the U.S. Joint Staff provides the best model in the federal system today. There the ceiling on tenure for an officer is four years. According to a former head of Personnel at the Joint Staff, Col. John Peele, the general pattern in the peacetime service has been that it takes an officer six months to get up to speed in the joint arena, followed by a year or so of fast paced contributions, followed by a tendency to rest on one's laurels. After somewhere between two and three years, fresh blood is needed.
The typical Congressman elected in the 19th century stayed on about 4½ years, and that order of duration may be about the upper limit suitable for the most democratic representatives. One need only reflect on the changes many people undergo during four years of college, or in the military, to imagine the effects of spending a like period inside the beltway, immersed in the upper strata of D.C. elitism.
However, because the constellation law would have U.S. Representatives spend the first two years of the path of service in the office of tribune (section 1:3-11) — where constituent service duties as ombudsmen, together with subordinate status, should help preserve a sympathy with the common people — the 50 month duration is not, we may conclude, so lengthy as to breed an elitist mentality that alienates Representatives from the citizens, localities, congressional districts and States they represent. Neither will there be a triennial burnout syndrome in the path of service, since no one job – neither tribune nor Congressman – will exceed two years.
Under the old European constitutions, the absence of separation of powers tended to concentrate excessive power in certain offices. The bad structure made power dangerous, and thus called for a very rapid rotation – annual or even faster – in order to reduce the risk of keeping power for too long in the same hands. As inspired by Montesquieu, the checks and balances in the U.S. Government whereby "power checks power," do a lot to mitigate the danger of an overt autocracy emanating from any one of the three branches of government.
Unfortunately, a more subtle enemy than dictatorship issues from Washington, D.C., namely a federal oligarchy or in-group, reinforced by the psychological metamorphosis which promotes elitism and estranges leaders from the outlook of private citizens. To counteract this development, rotation need not be so rapid as the annual formulas employed in ancient and Renaissance Europe, yet it should be much faster than the decade long tenure that postmodern Congressmen average.
Another consideration is whether the rotation should be enforced after a single term, or if consecutive reelection should be permitted, say, once or twice. The one-term version of rotation would answer an objection raised by David Broder of the Washington Post. In 1990, Broder argued against term limits in the versions then popular because they failed, said he, to redress the dearth of competition in congressional races, which has declined markedly since World War II. Multi-term versions of rotation might actually reduce competition by encouraging a potential challenger to wait it out until the incumbency ceiling created an open seat. We think even Broder will have to concede, however, that one-term rotation will increase competition — for incumbent senators who will face a formidable wave of competition from retiring representatives, and for the House where every election will see 435 open seats. American political history demonstrates indisputably that when an incumbent voluntarily steps aside, creating an open seat, then suddenly the elections become competitive.
A socioeconomic factor that recommends the single-term version of rotation involves PACs and moneyed special interests. Prohibiting reelection altogether would deprive the PACs and plutocrats of their foremost opportunity to buy votes, and the incumbents of their prime necessity of selling — the biggest such market being the House, because its membership constitutes 81 percent of the congressional total (House, 435; Senate, 100).
A major drawback of the current flea market in congressional bills is described by Michael Parenti in his Democracy for the Few. "The first intent of most officeholders is not to fight for social change but to survive and prosper," says Parenti, and survival requires reelection. Incumbents tend to respond to group demands rather than group needs. Collective needs will only get a hearing if they are convertible into demands through political "buying power." Therefore, concludes Parenti, the "wants of the unorganized public seldom become imperatives to which officials find it in their own interest to respond...."
Although my own position on the political spectrum is at some distance from the socialism espoused in Parenti's work, the above analysis rings true. I would concur, furthermore, with one of the most active members of the 1787 Convention which framed the Constitution, George Mason. Ultimately Mason refused to sign the new Constitution, in part because it failed to provide for rotation in office. Said Mason,
Nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation." Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interests of his constituents as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate their burdens.
Congressmen today no longer feel that certainty of returning to the general mass of the people. Incumbents heed primarily the constituents who are wealthy and/or powerful enough to have an appreciable effect on the outcome of a reelection bid so that they, the incumbents, will never have to rejoin the private citizenry. But eliminating the possibility of House reelection will move political survival in that chamber – Parenti's "first intent of most officeholders" – off the incumbent's list of priorities. The effect of non-reelectability must be to push the motive described by Mason upward to a higher level of priority.
A 20th century historian, G.P. Baker, finds that every kind of political corruption can be classified in terms of conflict of interest, i.e. divided loyalty. Corruption is, says Baker, “a secret negligence in one thing for the benefit of another.” Term limits will run counter to corruption, then, to the extent that when a Congressman is tempted to neglect the general interest for that of the federal oligarchy, he would thereby neglect his impending self-interest as a citizen, as a worker / consumer, and as a denizen of American popular culture.
The key is to prohibit reelection of Congressmen altogether, rather than adopt multi-term rotation in any form. Even allowing just one reelection would split the House roughly down the middle into freshmen and sophomores. The former would remain open to the lures and leverage of special interests who offer to fill the incumbent's campaign war chest, and vulnerable to threats that the money will go to the challenger's campaign.
Under one-term rotation, by contrast, there would be no reelection campaigns for the House, thus depriving the plutocrats of their foremost opportunity and market for buying legislation, and relieving Congressmen of their prime necessity of selling.
With no reelection campaign, there would be no million dollar war chest to fill. Of course it is a universal rule that money talks, but one-term rotation will keep the incumbent's monetary bottom line from monopolizing the conversation – and the voting – at least in the House.
On the other hand, rotating the entire assembly at once, that is after a single term, will afford all Congressmen an equal tenure standing, and will render all districts equal in terms of potential representation. In practice it will advance the influence of character and qualities of leadership, rather than mere seniority, in the guiding of legislation. Trust and inborn ability to lead are good criterions for promoting a Congressman to the House hierarchy or to a committee chairmanship.
Another practical consideration in favor of a single House term is that permitting consecutive reelection, even once, would exclude the possibility of a path of service with its initial term of apprenticeship prior to legislative duties. After service as tribunes, the Representatives will graduate to congressional duties every even numbered year, on January 3rd. This schedule conflicts mechanically with the reelection option; the 435 incumbents must all vacate their places so the 435 tribunes can advance.
Also, a second or third consecutive term by some fraction of the House might well have less utility, in terms of pertinent experience, than giving the entire 435 an apprenticeship at the basic nuts and bolts level of the government. Thus, the tribune's two years as an ombudsman handling constituent services and cutting red tape in the federal bureaucracy (section 1:4-9) would be worthwhile not only in its own right, but as a period of acclimatization to the federal arena before Representatives begin the congressional term. Experience in congressional committees would also accrue to tribunes through their service on half-tribune committees of Congress (constellation law 2:4). In these posts and also in the two months transition interval, the 435 would get to know one another, and leadership would emerge prior to full-fledged congressional duties. In short, the advantages of letting U.S. Representatives advance methodically from the tribunate to an organization interval, and finally to hit the ground running as Congressmen, requires as an orderly prerequisite, one-term rotation of the House.
Opponents of this plan argue that the path of service would be undemocratic in that it would mean a 26 month delay in bringing the people's electoral choices to full power. On the contrary, however, the entire path of service is just over four years whereas an MP's term in the British House of Commons is five years. It makes no more sense to argue that the House of Commons is undemocratic for the last three years of the term to which members are elected than to argue that the House would be undemocratic because it's members were more than two years removed from the ballot box. The contrary is true: under biennial rotation the House will be more democratic in propensity than any such assembly in American history, and a little delay will accord with safety and prudence. In addition, the provision for recall of Representatives, will enhance the democratic character of the House of Representatives (see the section below on recall).
In any case, newly elected Representatives would at once become tribunes, and as detailed in the next chapter, the duties of a tribune would include service on certain committees of Congress. So House elections would have a two tiered effect on the House of Representatives — an immediate direct effect at the outset through the committee system, and a delayed but more dramatic effect after 26 months. As for the other elected offices in the Executive and Legislative branch the lag time would be unchanged, with the President elect waiting some 2½ months before taking office – from early November until January 20th – and the Senator elect waiting about two months until January 3rd.
Implicit in the opponents' arguments against the 26 month lag time is the concept of direct democracy as opposed to republican government. Direct democracy is also inherent in the reasoning that sees a more informed and issue-oriented voter as the salvation of our political system. Granted, each well informed voter makes politics so much the better; but the most informed electorate will always know less about pending legislation than the least up-to-speed members of Congress. Even supposing the American populace to have more information on the issues than their counterparts in the UK (the contrary is probably true) the unwieldy nature of the hundreds of thousands of people in a congressional constituency renders most of their wants and needs impractical to articulate in a politically tangible fashion, except through representation. And representation in a republic has little to do with polling data, and a great deal to do with the character, wisdom and empathy possessed by elected representatives. As Edmund Burke put it,
Your representative owes you, not
his industry only, but
his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you
if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
In a republic, therefore, the primary purpose of an election is to put into office people of good character, judgment and empathy with the citizenry. The 26 months of preliminary duties will serve to improve the representatives' judgment, individually and collectively, before they assume congressional duties. By contrast, giving new representatives full power immediately after the election, without the 26 month delay, would give partisan politics a promptness and immediacy in terms of the numbers of House seats allocated to the respective parties. This instantaneousness might momentarily appease the so called "now generation." For the hurry we would pay a high price; voters would swap much of the representation described by Burke. Voters would sacrifice quality of representation for quick partisanship, exchange judgment for immediate gratification of a popular impulse, and trade the fruits of political patience for haste.
Another consideration as regards the mechanics of the rotation is whether permanently to prohibit reelection to the House, or to require an interval between reelections. During the 19th century, when informal rotation in office was in force, many Congressmen left and returned later. Those State constitutions which rotate the governor after a single term provide for no more than an interval of ineligibility. The triennial rotation of the continental congress was governed by a maximum service of "three years in six," a formula reflecting James Harrington's principle of an "interval or vacation equal to the term." On the other hand, the 22nd Amendment makes a President forever ineligible after he reaches his tenure ceiling.
The arch-amendment, section 1:1, imposes the latter model, lest the House become a way station on a political grand tour whose itinerary is a permanent if shifting lifetime legislative career. Moreover, the merits of allowing a return after an interval would doubtless be clouded by the clout issue, with states deciding for return in order to gain advantage over other state delegations. Perpetual ineligibility for the House would eliminate such interstate competition and decide the issue of clout in the U.S. House on the basis of relative population. Such indeed is the criteria enshrined in the U.S. Constitution ever since the Convention adopted the great compromise of July, 1787, whereby the states have equal representation in the Senate while the House is apportioned by population.
As regards the U.S. Senate, the political impact of rotating the House will be substantial. Retiring the 435 Congressmen every two years – 1305 every six years – yields a mathematical possibility of 13 challengers for each of the 100 Senate seats. In practice, of course, not all ex-Congressmen will have enough recognition and backing to warrant statewide senatorial campaigns. Some will, no doubt, have had their fill of federal politics. Let us suppose that for each Senate seat only two ex-Congressmen run – one Democrat and one Republican. Even such a minimal level of competition would be six times the current level of Senatorial candidates coming directly from the House, which has averaged less than one House candidate per three Senate races. The present rate of House-Senate climb is low, largely because the incumbent's place in the House is so very secure. Knowing that once the incumbent goes out of office it is exceedingly difficult to get back in, few Congressmen are willing to “trade a bird in the hand for two in the bush.” It is noteworthy, however, than when Congressmen do run for the Senate, some 37 percent win.
Under one-term rotation no Congressman will retain the electoral advantage of incumbency. With no advantage or office to lose, a surge of ex-Congressmen running for the Senate will be as sure as anything can be in politics.
Keener competition for Senate seats will enhance the importance of popular elections in determining the character of the upper house of Congress. Experienced candidates being more numerous, voters will have more options, and so it will take more sagacious and responsive Senators to win reelection. Accordingly the quality of the Senate in terms of character and capacity ought to rise.
More competitive elections will to some extent make the Senate more populist in orientation than the present upper chamber. However, to democratize the Senate completely would be unwise. The Framers of the Constitution designed the Senate as a partial check to democracy, which explains the relatively long six year term, for which incumbents are reeligible.
The Framers were students of history who learned from ancient Athens about the volatility and danger in pure democracy. The more stable republics since Athens have avoided her extremes. Tempering democracy with caution, they allowed long service in certain spheres of the political hierarchy, such as the dyarchy and council of elders in Sparta, the senate in the republic of Rome, and the doge' and senate in Venice.
Balance between the tendencies of the many, the few, and the one, remain an essential component of the American system of checks and balances between House, Senate and Presidency. Such a mix secures a stability for government that overextension of democracy tends to undermine. Applying the highly democratic institution of rotation to branches of government where democracy ought to be limited would only repeat the errors of the Jacksonians, who enforced rotation in the U.S. civil service.
In the case of the Senate the possibility of continuous reelection is desirable for several reasons. First, open reelection of Senators provides institutional memory for the Congress as a whole. Long experience by a few members is a legislative resource of great value. As David Broder remarked, "it's nice to have a few old geezers around." Second, much of the opposition to term limits in the 1990s derived from the desire of voters to keep open the possibility of retaining genuine statesmen when and if they appear on the political scene. To deprive the electorate of this option for 100 percent of the seats in Congress in order to advance democracy would in itself be undemocratic. The electorate looks for someplace in the Legislative Branch where the best legislators may serve as long as they, the voters, perceive good leadership. The Senate affords the voter such an opportunity. A political system that allows reelection in but 100 (or 19 percent) of the 535 legislative seats can hardly be accused of pandering to incumbents.
Imagine a British Parliament in the 1930s where twelve years was the maximum service for all seats. After Winston Churchill was term-limited, his warnings about the Nazi menace would have come from outside the political system, been disseminated less widely, and secured less attention from the British public. In 1940 Churchill would have been in no position to assume the reigns of power when his country desperately needed his leadership. As with the Gracchi brothers and Marius in the republic of Rome, at times a country requires great leaders. And in the hour of need the public will trash term limits, and/or the constitution itself rather than be denied.
Biennial rotation of the U.S. House of Representatives will transform that body into a powerful engine of democracy. But just as a steam engine needs a safety valve to release steam and avert explosions, so House rotation demands that Senate seats be open to reelection as a way for the voters to keep their favored leaders in the system. Otherwise the system will eventually blow apart.
Another practical consideration is whether the rotation will strengthen or weaken the House relative to other branches of the government, particularly the Senate, the Presidency, the bureaucracy, and, as is frequently claimed, the congressional staff. The supposition that merely being around longer will give the staff inordinate influence over congressional bills simply does not square with the reality on capitol hill. It is precisely those members of Congress whose seniority is greatest who tend to rely most heavily on staff and who exhibit less willingness than younger members to restrain the appointees in the administrative arm of Congress. Freshman Congressmen seldom have time to develop a crony relationship with the staff and the bureaucracy. On the contrary, it is the freshmen who have proven most energetic in fighting the tendencies toward bureaucratic ascendancy.
That the rotation is quite compatible with strong de facto power is clear also from experience over the centuries. The clearest historical examples are from ancient Greece and Rome; also from the republic of Venice.
Ancient Sparta had three basic divisions in its governmental hierarchy, only one of which rotated. If short tenure necessarily undermines power, the kings or the council of elders should have taken charge in Sparta, because their incumbency was for life, whereas the ephors had to retire after one year. In fact, for centuries the five ephors were supreme and, Aristotle informs us, they were actually "too powerful and equal to a tyranny." Even Lysander, despite his heroic status as victor in the Peleponesian War, was deprived of his command by the Ephors and summoned back to Sparta for trial. Whatever the extent of the ephorate's authority, excessive or not, the point is that the annual rotation did not impede strong exercise of authority.
In Rome during the period of the republic, the annually rotated tribunes maintained their democratic power despite hostility from the senate. Senators enjoyed life tenure, yet term-limits did not mean subordination for the tribunate. On the contrary the tribunes constituted a viable political force for centuries.
More than a thousand years later, Venice had a rapidly rotating inner circle which exercised great power. For the better part of six centuries, the unrotated senate and the perpetual doge' were inferior in power to the rotated branch of Venetian government.
Of course it is necessary that the rotated branch be given strong allocated powers in the first place – that is authority vested in the office per se. Otherwise that branch will be weak whether rotated or not. The continental congress rotated triennially and was notoriously weak, not because of anything connected with congressional term limits – it had many able members – but simply because the thirteen original States were at first unwilling to vest substantial power in a national government of any kind. In the case of the House of Representatives, however, the U.S. Constitution has long allocated great power to that body. Indeed biennial rotation may actually increase the de facto power of the House, to the extent that limited tenure is a spur to action.
Just as a football team knows that it has 60 minutes of play in which to score its points, so each biennium's 435 Congressmen will know that they have 24 months to make a record of achievement in the House. The two years is not so short as to necessitate haste, but it should act as a kind of prod that says: get a move on, get something done!
Still another practical consideration is the quality of officeholder whom the 50 month path of service would attract. It has been argued that the best men will shun any office that lacks career opportunities. On the contrary, however, the chance to contribute to the common good and to help shape history for the better – or sometimes merely to escape the monotony of normalcy – has proven to be the kind of opportunity that successful people seize even to the detriment or delay of their regular careers. In both World Wars, which were popular wars for the most part, volunteers for the armed forces abounded, even though there was little in the way of pay or career incentive to compensate for slogging across muddy fields under the fire of German or Japanese machine guns. The present generation has seen talented and well educated citizens volunteer for the Peace Corps in numbers far exceeding the vacant positions, and in spite of mere subsistence salaries and the lack of career prospects. Neither do U.S. Cabinet members see their jobs as permanent. They expect that after four years, or perhaps eight, they will be retired with the President who appointed them. Yet it is not uncommon for Americans to leave lucrative positions in private industry, academia or law practice, for the special experience offered by a few years in the Cabinet.
Much of the incentive depends upon the nature of the public office. If it offers a real chance to make a mark on U.S. Government, and to use one's talents to effect; then irrespective of tenure limits, the office will attract many candidates of ability and high moral character.
At present, however, the office of Congressman seems to be waning in appeal. Two decades into the postmodernist era, Cooper and West found that "disaffection with House service per se" was on the increase. Many Congressmen continue to doubt that they can play a significant and vital part in shaping national policy. They see the job as more and more frustrating, and the system as impossibly cumbersome.
Under the constellation law, rotation and other provisions will sweep away much of the procedural muck that mires down personal initiative. The powers as tribune to promote bureaucratic reductions and to cut red tape should appeal to anyone interested in organizational reform. During the two years of congressional duties, the House rotation will have eliminated all the old seniority procedures which now prevent a rapid rise to power and personal influence. Instead of having to wait a decade or more to accrue seniority, a capable leader could assert himself (or herself) at once. He might achieve the Speakership or a major committee chairmanship at the outset of his House duties. If he does well, he may hope for the Senate. Surely such opportunity and challenge will attract the best and ablest of Americans.
To a large extent the body politic has little leverage but the reelection motive, which is supposed to threaten the incumbent with political reprisal if he poorly represents his constituency, and to reward him if he performs well. The House version of this motive has been strong as a lever for moneyed interests and powerful lobbies; but as an instrument of popular representation it has proven miserably ineffective.
In offices exposed to heavy and often critical media coverage – like the Presidency and Senate – both the incumbent and his challenger are known to the voting public, and the voter is in a position to make educated and discerning choices. The situation with the House is very different. Far less free media exposure means reduced visibility for a challenger's campaign. Meanwhile the incumbent Congressman projects a political image prepackaged by congressional staff workers and disseminated to the public via franked mail at public expense. Accordingly (as in figure 6.3) we see today the paradox of negative public opinion ratings of Congress as a whole, simultaneous with positive perceptions of almost every incumbent Congressman by his particular constituency. Over the eight House elections, 1974-1988, negative public opinion about the Congress overall averaged 64 percent, while incumbent defeats averaged one-tenth that or 6.4 percent.
From the standpoint of the ordinary voter the main paybacks via the so called reelection lever have been pork barrel legislation and literally tons upon tons of public relations propaganda. Hence, it is necessary that by inclination rather than political coercion, the House membership be made representative of the general populace. Only a House that is populist by natural inclination will offset the elite leverage of special interests. Biennial rotation would create a populist House, rendering democracy operative not just sporadically at the polls, but regularly in the detailed daily governing in Washington, D.C.
Of course it has been argued that term limitation is inherently undemocratic, because it limits the voter’ right to choose a favorite incumbent, i.e any restriction limits democratic choices. In its 1995 decision striking down all state laws limiting congressional terms, the Supreme Court used this very line of argument.
On the contrary, however, term limits are a historically proven option available to constituents whereby to manage public servants. If voters have the right to remove an incumbent on an ad hoc basis by withholding reelection, do they lack the right to withhold reelection systematically? History and reason indicate that both political means are democratic– systematic term limitation and defeating candidates case by case at the polls. They who deny either option to the electorate are hardly furthering democracy. It was not the voters initiating term limits in about half the congressional delegations who acted undemocratically, but rather the U.S. Supreme Court in usurping the right of the people to decide their country’s form of government.
Among other possible objections to a mandatory rotation is that it would be artificial, and that evolution of the House should be allowed to take its natural course. Being a form of circulation, however, rotation is among the highest laws of nature. All the planets in our solar system orbit the sun, which in turn circles the hub of the galaxy. Earth's rotation causes day and night; other kinds of circulation give us weather and the seasons. Movement means health, just as a swift brook is cleaner and sustains higher forms of life than a stagnant slough.
In politics too, rotation in office means renewal. The utility of rotation is found in nature herself, and for the body politic to mandate its application to the most democratic chamber is no more unnatural than medically to remove a blockage that impairs circulation in a person's bloodstream.
The historian, G.P. Baker, sees the greater availability of reserves of new men, refreshed and eager for the labors of government, as one of the advantages large states have over small countries. But our own great nation squanders this advantage by doing nothing to prevent the hardening of boundaries described by Dr. Nelson Polsby.
Instituting a mandatory rotation will break up the House boundaries that have become hardened, and that have sealed off what the Framers designed as the assembly most animated by democracy. To dissolve these hardened boundaries, to infuse fresh popular energy, and generally to upgrade the responsiveness and moral level of officialdom – these are the objectives implicit in the first section of the arch-amendment.
DEMOCRATIC CHANGES TO ACCOMPANY ROTATION
It is worth repeating that in a representative democracy, as opposed to a direct or pure democracy, the primary role of the people is not directly to decide issues at the polls (as in referendums), but rather to elect trustworthy agents who can deal with issues on the basis of better investigations and deliberations than are feasible or desirable to the average voter. Most any general populace is by nature apolitical, having but a modicum of interest in the detailed everyday workings of government or the economy. Therefore representative government is the only possible way for democracy to operate on a day-to-day basis.
Yet the postmodernist version of representative democracy is such a disappointment, that numerous activists have thrown up their hands in “shared general disillusionment” with the so-called democratic system. Who can blame them for casting about for an alternative? In the political sphere some Americans argue that the bicameral U.S. Congress and the separate Executive should be replaced by the parliamentary system, as practiced in Great Britain. And yet in the UK, where people experience this system, public confidence in the British Parliamentary is abysmally low. Pure democracy is another plausibility, as in e-government based on universal suffrage via the internet. What this high-tech form of direct democracy would entail, however, is more plebiscites on more issues than any populace in the world is willing or ready to understand.
Another forlorn hope is “the culture of protest” – forlorn, that is, for those who see it as the ultimate answer, i.e. a continuous and ongoing process whereby to keep pushing crooks and political hacks into behaving like elected representatives of the people. Yes, protest is of value – even enormously so on occasion – in ramming onto the agenda some issues that mainstream politicians would never consider in the absence of pressure. Protest makes the democratic process more robust, and it provides a heady experience for the participants, especially the young.
But though the culture of protest affords participants a feeling of empowerment, that powerful feeling is too often like a Miller high, and the reality like a hangover. For one thing, as Noorena Hertz points out, the scope for involvement is far more limited than for a functioning representative democracy. Most citizen/consumers are “not prepared to stand in the clouds of tear gas outside another intergovernmental conference….”
God bless those who are willing to do so. Yet in their desire to make street protests into a new democratic system representative of the people, inadvertently they embrace a chimera. The deception here overlooks the fact that no version of pure democracy, nor any mass activism by consumers, allows for a well-regulated deliberative process prior to decision making. Moreover, consumer boycotts and street demonstrations are even more cumbersome than direct democracy in its old form.
In her important and perceptive book, The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy (2001), Professor Hertz sees clearly enough that the political franchise is now “ineffective as a means of political expression,” and that “the social contract between government and the people is increasingly meaningless….” Hertz acknowledges that consumer boycotts now do more to empower the people than today’s depreciated ballot box, and that together with mass political protests, manipulation of shopping patterns (via boycotts or threats to boycott) has become “the most effective weapon in the armory of ordinary citizens.”
Unfortunately the most effective weapon available is not necessarily adequate for the purpose. In 1877, Japanese rebels “soon learned that samurai armed with swords were no match for peasant soldiers, well-armed and well-drilled.”
Likewise, armed with internet democracy, consumer boycotts, or political placards, activists must soon run afoul of a basic human shortcoming – a quality that limits the consumer / political protestor as much as the citizen. Emotionally, psychologically and technically it is impossible for the electorate (or consumers) to be informed on more than a minuscule percentage of the many thousands of bills (or corporate initiatives) introduced each year. Therefore it is never, or rather rarely that the masses make political / corporate decisions. This is as it should be, for “where there is no knowledge, there is no wisdom.”
Hence, the answer to postmodernist corruption of politics is in revitalizing representative democracy, not in looking to innumerable referendums via the internet. Nor is substituting “supermarket activism” a viable solution. Consumer boycotts have their place, but they can never do the job of elected representatives. Neither can street protestors, however altruistic and determined.
By contrast the political aims proposed in this book are pragmatic – the restoration of democratic institutions within essentially the same framework for a republic as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. It would be folly to discard the Constitution and dismantle our venerable institutions if we can upgrade and build upon the structures that have historically served us well. To be sure, rotation in office and other additions are proposed as radical means to democratize U.S. institutions, restore them to health, and adapt them to the 21st century.
Again, the chief repository of representative democracy at the federal level is the U.S. Congress, especially the House of Representatives. Accordingly, in addition to rotation in office, five more democratic changes are proposed with reference to Congress. The constellation law provides for annual congressional elections (section 1:3), moderate salaries for Congressmen (3:1), and the power of the people to recall Representatives from the path of service (1:12-13). Finally, as analyzed in chapter seven, the constellation law defends democracy with provisions against usurpation of power by the most undemocratic branches of government in the United States, the federal Judiciary (4:1-9) and the federal bureaucracy (1:5-9).
The concept of giving the voter an annual input at the national level is not without precedent. A popular watchword of the American Revolution in its early stages was, "when annual elections end, there slavery begins."
Moreover, elections for Congress were not always in even numbered years. Until 1872, States were free to hold general elections to the U.S. House whenever they saw fit, and many States elected their Congressmen during the odd numbered years. In the House elections to the 28th Congress, seven States cast their ballots in 1842 while the remaining 19 States held House elections in 1843.
Section 1:3 of the constellation law will restore the annual feedback from voters to the Federal Government by moving all House elections to the odd numbered year, while retaining even numbered year elections for the Senate and the Presidency. Doubling the frequency of the popular input should get the public more involved and make the federal system more accountable.
In addition, odd year balloting will set House elections apart, and focus more attention on the campaigns for the office of Congressman. At present, with simultaneous Senate, House, and sometimes Presidential campaigns competing for the electorate's attention, candidates for the House receive short shrift in media coverage. Races for the Senate and Presidency are like a magnet in drawing press coverage. Most voters know little or nothing about the contestants for Congressman, and most cannot even name their own Congressman.
Moving House elections into the odd year time frame will give these races top billing on the year's electoral agenda. From the higher prominence of House campaigns, we can anticipate more public interest and better informed voters. The more interested and astute the electorate, the better the quality of representative democracy.
Another democratic course is to narrow the gap between the salary of a Representative and that of his constituents. In the year 2004 a Congressman earned $158,100 annually, about five times the median income of the American family. Under section 3:1 the salary, not counting expenses [perhaps an allowance for a rental near Washington, D.C.] would be exactly twice the median household income. In this way the Representative's own pay would vary up or down in tandem with the income fluctuations experienced by private citizens.
By contrast, Congress has now in place a provision that pegs their salaries to annual inflation figures, giving members automatic cost of living increases – a bonus enjoyed by few of us outside government. Why shouldn't Congressmen feel personally the economic effects of government policies? Under the constellation law they would share in their constituent's lot, be it economic plight or prosperity.
Furthermore, the salary would not be so high as to put the Representative on a lofty economic plateau far above and remote from the situation of the people he or she represents. As a rule, the best salary for the most democratic offices is one that enables the officeholder to live comfortably but not luxuriously. Astronomically high salaries elevate officeholders to elite economic status, whereupon they become unrepresentative of the rank-and-file majority.
Congressmen who cannot live (as they claim) on moderate incomes may well exhibit extravagant tastes when it comes to public spending. If twice the average family income, plus expense accounts and generous benefits, will not satisfy their personal spending habits, then their lack of frugality might very well carry over into public life. In any case, do we really want people in the most democratic chamber who refuse to serve unless the taxpayer affords them a luxury level income?
The objection will arise that unless incumbents are paid highly lucrative salaries, the limitation to one term will invite them to make hay while the sun shines. Instead, however, of appeasing dishonest or greedy politicians, the constellation amendment makes any Representative who is corrupt subject to a rapid and facile removal.
This check parallels another provision of the constellation amendment: To avert the temptation for corporations to offer payoffs in return for favors delivered during the 50 month path of service, each state is authorized under section 3:2 to legislate against “contributions – and/or the offer of positions in private firms – for candidates, incumbents, or former Representatives.” The closer connection between each state legislature and its own delegation of U.S. Representatives will qualify the respective states to monitor, and if necessary to regulate by law, lest corporations try to bribe elected representatives by new means (after rotation liquidates the old reelection war chest).
To the same end, the recall process as defined in the constellation law will promote more proximity between each state legislature and the respective delegation serving in the path of service. Section 1:12-13 restores a connection between the State legislatures and the U.S. Congress comparable to the link established originally by the Framers. During the first century-and-a-quarter of the Constitution, 1789 to 1913, it was the State legislatures who elected U.S. Senators. Under the constellation law the new connection between the Federal Government and state government would be the new authority of state legislators to initiate recall proceedings against members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
A recall election would differ from most American elections (and from the 2003 circus-recall of California governor, Gray Davis) in that no competing candidates would appear on the ballot. The issue before the voter would be whether to keep the incumbent in office or to remove him. Just as the employer in private industry decides whether or not to dismiss an employee, so we the voters are the collective employer who would decide whether to retain or recall the Representative (employee) whom we originally elected (hired). State laws govern the filling of unscheduled vacancies due to retirement or death. State laws would apply also when positions are vacated by a recall election.
Recall is a well precedented institution dating back to ancient Athens. In early America the Articles of Confederation authorized State legislatures to recall delegates from the continental congress. And at present 15 State constitutions allow the voters to recall State legislators and other elective officials.
In all but three of the 15 States, the petition process necessary to bring about a recall election is discouragingly difficult, verging on impossibility. By contrast, the procedure in section 1:12 of the constellation law will permit a simple majority of the legislators who reside in a given congressional district to require a recall election in that district. This procedure is probably the easiest and most facile way of initiating recall, although the same subsection does allow alternatively for the petition by ten percent of the district's voters.
Within his constituency the average Congressman now has 17 State legislators, in which case a majority of nine would suffice to submit the issue of recall to the voters in the respective congressional district. Under so manageable and ready a system of recall, it is difficult to imagine many incumbent Representatives who would ignore a telephone call from one of the authorized legislators. The Congressman might disagree with what was said, and adopt another course, but perfunctory disregard and contemptuous dismissal of “voices from the hustings” will surely become rarer expressions of the arrogance of federal power.
The authority of State legislators to recall U.S. Representatives will help link the Federal Government to citizens in the localities. State legislators are elected in relatively small districts where they are much closer to their constituents than are Congressmen. Moreover the State solons continue to live at the localities, rather than in the strange and remote world of Washington, D.C. In short, the power of State legislators to initiate recall will promote not only responsiveness but level-headedness and honesty among the U.S. Representatives during their 50 months sojourn in Babylon.
Early in the Convention, the delegates adopted a working document known as the Virginia Plan. It had been composed by the seven Virginia delegates while they waited for the Convention to convene its first session. Introduced on May 29, 1789, it included provisions for rotating the lower house of the national legislature, while the upper house remained open to continuous reelection. However, the delegates in Philadelphia dropped mandatory rotation as applied to the lower house of Congress on June 12, the Convention voting without dissent (nemine contradicente). On June 7, five days prior to dropping term limits, the Convention had amended the Virginia Plan so that, instead of election of the upper house by the lower, the State legislatures would elect the upper house of Congress, just as they had hitherto elected the entire Confederation Congress. A desire to emulate the method applied by the Articles of Confederation to the old congress, i.e. to rotate that assembly (the Senate) whose constituency was to be the State legislatures, would explain the acquiescence of all delegates on June 12 – including George Mason of Virginia who later made public statements advocating rotation of the Senate.
A year later, 26 July 1788, New York State ratified the new U.S. Constitution in conjunction with a number of amendments which the ratifying convention proposed, including the following: "That no Person shall be eligible as a Senator for more than 6 years in any term of 12 years," again indicating a tendency for rotation supporters to follow the Articles of Confederation pattern.
With respect to the executive branch of government, Joseph Kallenback notes that during the Revolutionary period the method of selection was a factor in whether to apply rotation or not. In all seven States which then mandated a gubernatorial rotation, selection of the governor by the legislature was also employed. But in all the States that had popular election of the governor, reelection was legally unhindered. At the Convention of 1787, whether Congress should or should not select the President was, says Kallenback, "the controlling factor," in the vacillating positions taken by the Convention on the matter of Presidential reeligibility.
In the case of the Senate, unlike the Presidency, the upper house was intended to provide a place for the aristocratic component in a mixed constitution. Although many delegates seem to have favored the application of rotation to the appointed chamber, as per the Articles of Confederation, a mitigating factor – perhaps even an overriding consideration – might have been the perception that it would be self-defeating to apply so democratic a principle as rotation to an assembly they sought to make quasi-aristocratic.
In short, it may have seemed incongruous to rotate the Senate and superfluous to rotate the House. We may conclude that most of the Framers considered unlimited reeligibility in the lower house of Congress as being sufficiently offset by biennial popular elections to the House, which would lead to informal rotation there – as indeed the future would bear out. Extra-legal rotation would prove to be sufficient in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than a century.
 Noreena Hertz, The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy (New York: The Free Press, 2001), pp. 113-14.
 Hertz, Ibid., p. 105; cf. pp. 106-08.
 Ibid., p. 105.
 Ibid.,p. 108.
Aristotle, The Politics, 6.1.8, trans. H. Rackham, in Loeb Classical Library (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1932), p. 493.
Ibid., 3.4.5-7. I wish to acknowledge the kind consideration in 1970 of Dr. Pierre A. Mackay, University of Washington, who translated this passage from the Greek and helped revise a translation which I had synthesized from various published translations.
Nelson W. Polsby, "The Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives," American Political Science Review 62 (March 1968): 145-46. Hereafter the Review is abbreviated APSR.
 Source for Figure 6.1: Robert Struble, Jr., "House Turnover and the Principle of Rotation," Political Science Quarterly 94 (Winter 1979-80): 658. This data was updated from November post-election issues of Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 1978-1990.
Calculated from the Official Congressional Directory, Congresses 79 to 99. See also Robert Struble, Jr., "House Turnover and the Principle of Rotation," Political Science Quarterly 94 (Winter 1979-80): 650.
 Source for figure 6.2 is Robert Struble, Jr. and Z.W. Jahre, PS: Political Science & Politics 24 (March 1991): p. 35.
 CQ Weekly 52 (12 November 1994): 3232. 157 Republican incumbents ran for reelection in 1994 and all 157 won; 225 Democrats ran and 190 won.
On the advantages of incumbency see
for example, Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 46 (19 November
1988): 3362-65; CQ Weekly 37 (7 July 1979): 1350-57; Mark J. Green,
James M. Fallows, and David R. Zwick, Who Runs Congress?, Ralph Nader
Congress Project, chapter 8, "Staying Elected," (New York: Bantam
Books, 1972), pp. 226-45.
The franking privilege, long a formidable advantage for incumbents, has been greatly enhanced by means of a multi-million dollar congressional computer system. [The New York Times, national ed., 13 April 1984, pp. 1, 9]. On the enormous recent expansion of franked mail see CQ Weekly 47 (18 February 1989): 301-02.
Struble, "House Turnover," p. 656, table 2.
Ibid., p. 658, figure 1, and fn. 19, pp. 653-54; see also CQ Weekly 38 (12 January 1980): 80.
 Source: Congressional Quarterly Weekly Reports, November post-election data. By some accounts the 2004 House elections were the least competitive since WW II. Reelection rates for House incumbents was 99%.
Calculated mainly from U.S. Congress, Senate, Document no. 92-8, 92 Congress 1, 1971, Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971. Speakers of the House from David Henderson through Tom Foley averaged 26.3 years of House service before becoming Speaker.
Polsby, "Institutionalization," pp. 145, 153, looks at complexity of internal organization with specialization of roles in the House.
 Aristotle, The Politics 5.7, p. 207.
Andrew Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), chapter XII, “The Mixed Constitution and Republican Ideology,” pp. 214-232, and on Montesquieu and the Founding Fathers, pp. 251-54; Tenney Frank, A History of Rome (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1923, p. 180; Kurt Von Fritz, The Theory of the Mixed Constitution in Antiquity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954); Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, 11.6, in Melvin Richter, ed., The Political Theory of Montesquieu (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977), pp. 249-52; cf. pp. 88-89, 91.
Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 70-71.
William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Introduction, section 2.50, 2 vols. (Chicago: Callagham & Co., 1899), 1:50-51. Blackstone's work was first published in America in 1773.
The perception of Congress today as oligarchical in nature is not just an outsider's view. In 1979 Senator Howard Baker lamented "the evolution of a mandarin Congress, a self-perpetuating ruling class with no interest but government and no real home but Washington, D.C." (See above, chapter 2, under the heading "Political"). See also U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Hearings Before The Subcommittee On the Constitution, Congressional Tenure, 95 Congress 1, 1978, for numerous observations and sources on the insulation of Congress from the country at large.
 Coburn quoted in, newsletter from Americans for Limited Terms, late 1998 [undated], p. 2.
See for example the guest editorial by state senator Robert Presley, "Taking California Back to Amateur Status," Los Angeles Times, 8 November 1990. Presley's argument includes the following: "By approving the term limits mandated by proposition 140, the electorate has in effect cast a vote for inexperience and incompetence in the leadership of this great nation state of 30 million people [and] returned its Legislature to the status of rank amateurism...."
In Massachusetts, State law requires
at least a triennial rotation of the names on jury lists, from which veniremen
are drawn by lot. Also a person who actually serves as a juror in court
is ineligible to further jury duty for three years [Massachusetts General Laws,
chap. 234, sect. 2 7 4]. Furthermore, 35 Corpus Juris 252, note
59, states that a purpose of jury rotation statutes is "to get rid of an
objectionable class of persons known as 'professional jurors.'" See
also Corpus Juris Secundum, Juries, 150, note 80.
It should be noted that the lot used for jury selection is contrary to the natural aristocracy of talent; whereas section two of the constellation amendment combines rotation with election by ballot. In each of the 435 congressional districts there are some half a million citizens. The individuals each biennium who win the approval of such constituencies will have to be well above average in political ability.
 Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 3.83, tr. Benjamin Jowett, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900): 1:83
Robert Michels, Political Parties: A Sociological Study Of The Oligarchical Tendencies Of Modern Democracy, trans. Eden and Cedar Paul (New York: Hearst's International Library Co., 1915), pp. 390-92, 400-402, contains a statement of the iron law of oligarchy. Michels finds the duration of tenure inversely related to democracy, and directly related to the rise of oligarchy [pp. 36, 40, 45, 84, 97-98, 127, 156, 400-401].
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord John Acton, letter to Mandell Creighton, 5 April 1887. For similar reflections by early Americans see, Struble, "House Turnover," pp. 653, 657, 661. A modern scholarly analysis of the Actonian phenomenon is in David Kipnis, The Powerholders (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1976), chap. 9, "The Metamorphic Effects of Power," pp. 168-212. On the correlation between duration of tenure and corruption see also, Robert Struble, Ádapting Term Limits to A Bicameral Congress,” The Long Term View 1 (Winter, 1992): 12.
 Aristotle, The Politics 5.8, p. 210.
President Truman's reflections continued as follows: "When Rome forgot Cincinnatus, its downfall began. When we forget the examples of such men as Washington, Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, all of whom could have had a continuation in the office, then will we start down the road to dictatorship and ruin." Truman went on to state in this memorandum (dated April 16, 1950) that the precedent broken by F.D.R. should be reestablished, "not by a Constitutional amendment, but by custom based on the honor of the man in the office." [Harry S. Truman, The Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, 2 vols. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1956), 2:488-89].
Calvin Coolidge, The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1929), p. 241. Compare Coolidge's reflections with those of Michels, who argues that the near adoration of a leader is apt to produce his megalomania. "The immeasurable presumption," says Michels, "sometimes found in modern leaders, is not dependent solely on their being self-made men, but also upon the atmosphere of adulation in which they live and breathe." [Michels, Political Parties, p. 68]. See also Kipnis, The Powerholders, pp. 173-74].
Kipnis, ibid., pp. 169, 173.
Letter from Pope Gregory I to Augustine of Canterbury, dated A.D. 601, in Bede, A History of the English Church and People 1.31, trans. Leo Sherley-Price (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1955), p. 88.
Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care 1.3, 2.6, trans. Henry Davis, S.J., in Ancient Christian Writers, no. 11 (Westminster, Md.: The Newman Press, 1950), pp. 26, 62. See also, St. Thomas Aquinas, De Regisine Principum IX (On Princely Government).
The Latin original is, "...belua, omnium princeps parensque pestium superbia,...." Thomas More, Utopia, ed. Edward Surtz, S.J. and J.H. Hexter, in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, 14 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), 4:242; cf. Job 41:1, 34.
Kipnis, The Powerholders, pp. 168-78, especially pp. 173-74, 176; Michels, Political Parties (supra, fn. 16), pt. 3, chapter 1, "Psychological Metamorphosis of the Leaders," pp. 205-214.
Michels, ibid., pp. 205-207; cf. pp. 209-214.
Allan Nevins, The Gateway To History, rev. ed., (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1962, 1938), p. 46.
 Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Mirabeau," (1832) in Critical, Historical And Miscellaneous Essays And Poems, 3 vols. (New York: William L Allison, 1880) 1:779; Otto Scott, Robespierre: The Fool as Revolutionary, Inside the French Revolution (New York: The Reformer Library, 1995, 1974), pp. 167, 215, 224, 233. Of the new French Assembly of 1792, Scott writes (p. 167): “it knew little of the traditions of its own nation and despised what little it knew.” See also, John Courtney Murray, "The Problem of Pluralism in America," Thought: Fordham University Quarterly 29 (1954): 176, on the French Revolution and the superiority of the American Bill of Rights over the French Rights of Man.
 Mark Twain, Joan of Arc (1899), Book III, chapter II, footnote 1. According to Twain who spent 12 years researching this book, the famous banner “was destroyed in a public bonfire, together with two swords, a plumed cap, several suits of state apparel, and other relics of the Maid.” During her fatal trial at Rouen, Joan was interrogated about the banner, and why it had a place at the crowning of King Charles VII at the Cathedral of Rheims. Her celebrated reply was, “Il avait ete a la peine, c’etait bien raison qu’il fut a l’honneur.” (It had borne the burden, it had earned the honor.”) Twain, ibid., III.XI, footnote 1.
Patrick Henry, Speech in the 2nd revolutionary Convention of Virginia, March 23, 1775. Taken from The World's Famous Orations, William Jennings Bryan, editor, 10 vols. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1906) 8: 63-64. This is Henry's famous "give me liberty or give me death" speech.
Christopher Derrick, "Times
change, humanity doesn't," National Catholic Register,8 July 1984,
Cf. Wilson Carey Mc Williams, "On Equality as the Moral Foundation for Community," in Robert H. Horwita, ed., The Moral Foundations of the American Republic (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977), pp. 212-13.
Mc Williams observes that "Nowhere do we appear in a worse light than in our tendency to equate memory with nostalgia." When cut off from the past, according to Mc Williams, living citizens are trapped in a present without continuity, and driven to a fever to achieve or enjoy. Such a fever "endangers equality and community alike."
Winston Churchill, quoted in William Manchester, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1983), p. 12.
 In 2004 my Mexican friend, Antoine Morrison, sent me the following email: “O'Gorman painted with Rivera, was highly underrated, is now being more appreciated, was an architect (you've probably seen photos of the UNAM library huge mosaic), and designed many building in Mexico. INAH is the world famous museum in the center (almost) of Mexico City. It's among the three or four must-see attractions in D.F. Also known as the Anthropology museum.”
 Constitution of 1917, [article 50, 59].
The 22nd Amendment permits an exception for an interim President whose first term is two years or less, and whose maximum allowable service would then be ten years. On the historical background to this Amendment see, Charles W. Stein, The Third Term Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1943).
In 1965, Eisenhower published vol. two
of his presidential memoirs, and in one of the "afterthoughts," he
observed, " I originally thought the 22nd Amendment was unwise, but long
before I left the Presidency I publicly stated that I had changed my mind and
had come to believe, on balance, that the amendment was good for the
nation." Eisenhower asked, "if this kind of limitation is good
in the Presidency why should not the same kind of reasoning apply to
On behalf of a system of 12 year rotation in both houses, Eisenhower argued that a member of Congress "would tend to think of his career as an important and exciting interlude in his life, a period dedicated to the entire public rather than as a way of making a living or making a career of exercising continuous political power."
Eisenhower saw the necessity of a Constitutional Convention: "...an amendment of this kind could never achieve the blessing of Congress; it could only be initiated by the states." [Dwight D. Eisenhower, Waging Peace, The White House Years, 1956-1961 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1965), pp. 643-44]. Reprinted with permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
John Fund, "Term Limitation: An Idea Whose Time Has Come," Policy Analysis no. 141 (30 October 1990), p. 6, says President Truman proposed in 1950 that service be limited to 12 years in each chamber of Congress.
 “State Gubernatorial Term Limits: Making a Difference One State at a Time,” U.S. Term Limits, June 2002. On the history of gubernatorial rotation see, Joseph E. Kallenback, "Reeligibility of National And State Chief Executives," APSR 46 (1952): 438-54. As of 2002 the states without Gubernatorial term limits are 12: Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, N. Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.
States with term limits in the legislature as of 2002 are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, So. Dakota, Utah, Wyoming. Source: U.S. Term Limits.
The term limits law in my own state of Washington limited tenure in both houses of the state legislature [Initiative 573, 1992]. As a member of LIMIT, the steering committee for the initiative campaign, I helped compose the law which passed in the November election of 1992. The state supreme court overturned the law in January, 1998.
Stacie Rumenap, “Career Politicians Never Did Like Term Limits,” No Uncertain Terms, August 2002, vol. 10, #7, pp. 2-3. Or see, www.ustermlimits.org.
10 U.S.C. 152. The chairman's term is two years, with a maximum of three terms permitted, although the U.S. President may allow a fourth term. Normally an officer's combined service in either the chairmanship or vice-chairmanship is limited to six years.
Except in wartime, an officer's tenure on the Joint Staff is limited to four years, after which an interruption of two years is required, unless the Secretary of Defense approves an extended tour of duty. [10 U.S.C. 155; Congressional Record, 85 Congress 2, pp. 11048-51; CR 99 Congress 2, pp. H 6835-36].
House Report no. 1765, 85th Congress (22 May 1958), p. 29. See also, U.S. Code, Congressional and Administrative News (1958), p. 3280. Most of our information on the rationale for rotation in the Joint Staff was supplied by Col. John Peele, Chief of the Personnel Branch, Joint Staff, in a telephone conversation with R.S., 30 June 1989.
Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian F. Boyd, et.al., (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950-), 1:411.
In addition to the membership rotation in congress, the Articles of Confederation, article IX, paragraph 5, provided that, "no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years." See also, Merrill Jensen, The Articles of Confederation (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1940), pp. 126, 130, 133-34, 260, 264, 268. On the original committee of thirteen report, see Journals of the Continental Congress, ed. W.C. Ford, 34 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904-1937), 5:433, 552, (article XVIII).
Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, section 8. A convenient collection of early constitutions is, Francis N. Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and other Organic Laws..., 7 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1909).
Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776,
section 19. On Franklin's plan of 1775 see, Benjamin Franklin, The
Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed., Albert Henry Smyth, 10 vols. (New York:
The Macmillan Co., 1907), 6:423, article 9. A secondary source on the
Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 with a bibliography is Robert L. Brunhouse, The
Counter-Revolution in Pennsylvania 1776-1790 (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania
Historical Commission, 1942).
Sources on the Pennsylvania rotation per se are few and undetailed. Among the colonial predecessors of this constitution were the Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties of 1682, and the colonial frame of government of the same year, both authored by William Penn and providing for triennial rotation of the provincial council -- the upper house of the colonial legislature. [Thorpe, ed., ibid., 5:3048, 3055-56, 3065].
The Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 included the following flaws: a plural executive; no veto by the executive against legislative bills; and subordination of State supreme court justices to the legislature, in that a simple majority of the legislators sufficed to remove justices. There were other glaring flaws too, and on 2 November 1776 a meeting of citizens at Philadelphia adopted a resolution which stated in part: "that we wish for no alterations to be made in the Constitution, which shall affect the great and fundamental principles of a free government; such as liberty of conscience, trial by juries, freedom of the press, annual elections, and the division and rotation of offices. But, while we acknowledge these parts of the Constitution to be perfectly just, and highly agreeable to us, we think ourselves bound to declare that it contains flaws which in a little while will render these inestimable blessings of no efficacy." (Italics ours) [Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 9 vols.: 4th series in 6 vols., 5th series in 3 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1837-1853), 5.3:483].
The "self-denying ordinance"
of the constituent assembly -- the rump estates general or first legislature of
the French Revolution -- and also the first of the revolutionary constitutions
of France (constitution of 1791, title III, chap. I, sect. III.6), did indeed
represent radical and impractical barriers to experience and continuity.
Not one legislator's incumbency could exceed four years; for under the 1791
constitution the legislative assembly was unicameral, and consecutive service
was limited for all 745 members to a maximum of two biennial terms, followed by
a mandatory vacation of two years. After the execution of Louis XVI in
1793, rotation in the legislative branch was omitted by the radical convention
from the "constitution of the year I" which, however, was never put
into force. In 1795 the Thermidorean convention established both
legislative and executive rotation in the "constitution of the year
III," sections 54-55, 137-38. This latter constitution established a
bicameral legislature, but the limitation to two consecutive triennial terms,
followed by a two year vacation, was ill conceived in that the rotation applied
to service in both chambers.
The total absence of opportunities for continuance of the ablest legislators was a natural target for Edmund Burke, an eloquent and vehement foe of the French Revolution in general. "By the new French constitution," wrote Burke in 1790, "the best and wisest representatives go equally with the worst into this Limbus Patrum." [Edmund Burke, Reflections On The Revolution In France (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1969), pp. 305-06; cf. pp. 139, 299 (fn.)].
Benjamin Rush, "On the Defects of the Confederation, in The Selected Writings of Benjamin Rush, ed. Dagobert D. Runes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1947), p. 28. Estimated date of composition, c. May 1787.
The seven Virginia delegates arrived in Philadelphia about two weeks before the Constitutional Convention convened. They used the time to write the Virginia plan, which they presented on May 29 to the Convention through their young State Governor, Edmund Randolph, himself a delegate. The other six Virginia delegates were judge John Blair, James Madison, George Mason, Dr. James McClurg, George Washington, and professor George Wythe.
Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, 4 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), 1:20.
Ibid., 1:210, 217, 221.
Letter to Edmund Randolph from Lee dated 16 October 1787, in Richard Henry Lee, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, ed. James C. Ballagh, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1911), 2:450, 455. See also 1:191, letter to Edmund Pendleton dated 12 May 1776, and Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican, ed. Walter H. Bennett (University, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1978), pp. 72-75, 86. Hereafter cited Lee, Federal Farmer, Bennett, ed.
Jefferson, Papers, Boyd, ed., 12:440, 13:490. See also 15:25 for Jefferson's definition of rotation in office.
Mason in Jonathan Eliot, ed., The Debates in the Several State Conventions on Adoption of the Federal Constitution, 5 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1836), 3:485.
Mercy Otis Warren, Observations on the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions 9, in Herbert J. Staring, ed., The Complete Anti-Federalist, 6 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981) 4:270, 278. This composition had long been attributed to Elbridge Gerry until Staring's textual analysis.
Struble, "House Turnover," p. 650, and fn. 6. The quotation is from Henry James, the biographer.
James S. Young, The Washington Community, 1800-1828 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966), pp. 51-52, 55-57, 59-61, 64, 145.
James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931), p. 52; Struble, "House Turnover," p. 661.
Richmond Enquirer, 8 November 1822, p. 3; Struble, ibid., p. 653.
The spoils principle did not, however,
supplant but rather augmented the old conceptual precepts in favor of
rotation. We still see the second and fourth theoretical lines of
reasoning of the Revolutionary period (summarized in text above under the
heading 'Early American Theories in Support of Rotation') echoed by President
Andrew Jackson in his address to Congress, 8 December 1829:
"There are, perhaps, few men who can for any great length of time enjoy office and power without being more or less under the influence of feelings unfavorable to the faithful discharge of their public duties. Their integrity may be proof against improper considerations immediately addressed to themselves, but they are apt to acquire a habit of looking with indifference upon the public interests and of tolerating conduct from which an unpracticed man would revolt. Office is considered as a species of property, and government rather as a means of promoting individual interests than as an instrument created solely for the service of the people. Corruption in some and in others a perversion of correct feelings and principles divert government from its legitimate ends and make it an engine for the support of the few at the expense of the many."... [James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896-99), 2:448-49].
Struble, ibid., pp. 661-62.
Struble, ibid., pp. 659-60; Lincoln's letter to William Herndon, 8 January 1848, in Abraham Lincoln, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, 10 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:430-31.
Struble, "House Turnover," p. 660.
Ibid., p. 667.
In 1875 the House of Representatives
passed by the margin of 233 to 18 the following resolution:
"Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, the precedent established by Washington and other Presidents of the United States, in retiring from the presidential office after their second term, has become, by universal concurrence, a part of our republican system of government, and that any departure from this time honored custom would be unwise, unpatriotic, and fraught with peril to our free institutions." In 1928 an essentially identical resolution passed the Senate. [Struble, "House Turnover," p. 667, fn. 63].
Struble, ibid., p. 667.
John Adams, The Life and Works of John Adams, ed., Charles Francis Adams, 10 vols. (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), 4:197-98.
Article entitled "To the People
of Maryland," by An American, dated c. 27 June 1776, in Force, ed., American
Archives 4.6:1094-96. See also the resolution written by Jefferson in
the text corresponding to fn. 38.
Furthermore, the Maryland constitution, adopted November 1776, stated in its declaration of rights, section XXXI: "That a long continuance in the Executive Departments of power or trust is dangerous to liberty; a rotation therefore, in those departments is one of the best securities of permanent freedom." This article remains unchanged in the modern Maryland constitution, declaration of rights, no. 34. Also the Massachusetts constitution of 1780 (presently still in force) provides in the declaration of rights, section 8: "In order to prevent those, who are vested with authority, from becoming oppressors, the people have a right, at such periods and in such manner as they shall establish by their frame of government to cause their public officers to return to private life;...." Massachusetts was the seventh State to include a declaration of rights in its constitution. Five of the seven declarations included statements for rotation in office, viz. in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont and Massachusetts. (The other two States were Delaware and North Carolina).
Article dated 13 June 1776, entitled "The Interest of America," in Force, ed., American Archives, 4.6:840. The fear of a domestic tyranny was uppermost in many minds at that time. On June 12 an article, "To the People of Massachusetts Bay," by A Watchman, stated: "It will be a poor consolation to posterity that we prevented their being under the tyranny of Great Britain, unless we secure them, as far as it is in the power of mortals, from every other tyranny." [Ibid., 4.6:831].
Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, section 19. Also, the Pennsylvania declaration of rights, section VI, refers to the people's right to reduce public officers to a private station, "that those who are employed in the legislative and executive business of the State, may be restrained from oppression...." See also the 1777 Vermont declaration of rights, section 7.
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was the delegate in the continental congress who introduced the motion, seconded by John Adams, for the independence of the United States, 7 June 1776, which passed the following month. Lee later served as president of the congress and under the Constitution as Pres. pro temp. of the U.S. Senate. Authorship of the anonymous Letter from the Federal Farmer to the Republican has long been attributed to Lee, though recently questioned. Bennett (supra, fn. 48) considers the case "strong" though not decisive that Lee was in fact the author. Ralph Ketcham states, however, that the author is “almost certainly not Lee, but more probably...Melancton Smith.” Ralph Ketcham, ed., The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates (New York: Mentor, 1986), pp. 256-57
Lee, Federal Farmer, Bennett, ed., pp. 73, 86.
Ibid., p. 86; cf. p. 73.
Livingston's address of 1788 in Eliot, ed., Debates, 2:288. See also, letter from Rev. Samuel MacClintock of New Hampshire, dated 2 August 1776, to his Congressman, William Whipple in, Force, ed., American Archives, 5.1:735. "Can no regulation be made," asked MacClintock, "to guard more effectually against that corruption which has proved the ruin of all States that ever have existed, and to counteract the tendency of vice, and in some measure to supply the want of public virtue?... What of a Rotation act, to oblige those who make the laws, in their turn to experience the operation of them?" See also "considerations on the Mode of Electing Delegates to the General Congress," by J.R. of Connecticut, dated 10 June 1776, in Force, ed., American Archives 4.6:800. J.R. proposed triennial rotation "that the members of Congress may, at the time of enacting regulations for others, consider them likewise for themselves; and while acting as rulers have the feelings of subjects."
Mason's address in , Eliot, ed., Debates, 3:485. See text of this chapter, Part Three.
Lansing's address of 1788 in, Eliot,
ed., Debates, 2:289-90. Earlier that year Lee had observed:
"It will generally be expedient for a man who has served four years in Congress to return home, mix with the people, and reside some time with them: this will tend to reinstate him in the essential qualifications of a legislator. Even in point of information, it may be observed, the useful information of legislators is not acquired merely in studies in offices, and in meeting to make laws from day to day; they must learn the actual situation of the people, by being among them, and when they have made law, return home, and observe how they operate. Thus occasionally to be among the people, is not only necessary to prevent or banish the callous habits and self interested views of office in legislators, but to afford them necessary information, and to render them useful: another valuable end is answered by it, sympathy, and the means of communication between them and their constituents, is substantially promoted; so that on every principle legislators, at certain periods, ought to live among their constituents.
"Some men of science are undoubtedly necessary in every legislature; but the knowledge, generally, necessary for men who make laws, is a knowledge of the common concerns, and particular circumstances of the people."... [Lee, Federal Farmer, Bennett, ed., p. 74].
Force, ed., American Archives, 4.5:1170. According to Bailyn, during the Revolutionary period "there was absolute agreement," throughout the spectrum of thought from neo-Calvanists to freethinkers, on "the incapacity of the species, of mankind in general, to withstand the temptations of power." This consensus on the "intoxicating" nature of power saw nothing within man as strong enough to restrain the lust of power. [Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, p. 60, including fn. 6].
Letter to Adams dated 14 March 1785, in Lee, Letters, Ballagh, ed., 2:344. See also, Struble, "House Turnover," p. 661.
Force, ed., American Archives, 4.6:840.
Warren, Observations, Staring, ed., 4:278. The third theoretical point in text is little different from such modern scholarship as Kipnis, supra, fn. 18.
Article entitled, "To the People of Pennsylvania," by Salus Populi, dated 7 March 1776, in Force, ed., American Archives, 4.5:96-97.
Rotation was intended to increase the difficulty of practicing "the ruinous measures of factions," according to Lee, Federal Farmer, Bennett, ed., p. 74.
Lansing's address in , Eliot, ed., Debates, 2:293.
Smith's address in ibid., 2:310.
Article entitled, "On the
Present States of America," by Philo-Alethias of Delaware, dated 10
October 1776; and article entitled, "Political Observations Without
Order," dated 14 November 1774 at Philadelphia, both in Force, ed., American
Archives 5.2:969-70; 4.1:976-77. The latter article states in
"A rotation of offices is one of the life-guards of liberty. The right as well as the obligations to Legislation are alike binding on all men. To prevent pride and excessive popularity, and to diffuse knowledge and virtue are the surest methods of securing and perpetuating public liberty. These are to be obtained only by a constant rotation of offices." This article was written shortly after the adjournment of the first Continental Congress, 26 October 1774.
Lee, Federal Farmer, Bennett, ed., p. 74.
Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, section 19. Also in colonial Pennsylvania the Charter of Liberties of 1682, section 4, supported rotation in order that more citizens might be "fitted for the Government and have Experience of the Care and burden of it."
Lee, Federal Farmer, Bennett, ed., p. 73.
Smith's address in Eliot, ed., Debates, 2:310. In recent years the power of incumbency has indeed discouraged aspirants to the House. In the nine elections of 1960-1976, the candidates for House seats in which an incumbent was running averaged 3.3, as compared to 7.0 candidates per open House seat. [Calculated from Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 36 (30 September 1978): 2679].
For example, as Professor Frank of Johns Hopkins University wrote concerning republican Rome: "It was the only republic before our own that succeeded for a considerable period in maintaining liberty and potency. Its problems were to a large extent the very ones that we have had to solve. The Romans approached these problems with hardly any precedents to guide them, and from their failures and successes we can derive valid principles of government." [Tenney Frank A History of Rome, p. 13].
The last two centuries, however, of Venetian independence were a period of decline, both domestically and imperially.
Frederick C. Lane, Venice, A Maritime Republic (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), pp. 96-97, 251; Cardinal Gasparo Contarini, The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, trans. Lewis Lewkenor (London: John Windet for Edmund Mattes, 1599), pp. 40-41, 81.
In the 15th century, at the height of Venetian power, the inner circle consisted of the doge', six ducal councillors, three chairmen of the council of ten, and six heads of the senate or savii grandi. In 1178 the heads of government had been known as the Signora, and consisted of ten nobles: the doge', six ducal councillors, and the three heads of the forty. The three chairmen of the council of ten rotated monthly, and the three heads of the forty bimonthly. The rest rotated after six, eight, or 12 months. [Ibid., Lane, pp. 96, 116, 256-57, 428-29; Contarini, pp. 44, 62, 71, 79].
Ibid., Lane, pp. 96, 256-57. The rotation in Venice did not, however, prevent the same men from moving on to another office in the inner circle, as indeed was generally the practice – and one of Harrington's criticisms of the Venetian system.
The Venetian senate was the only significant political organ in which continuous reelection was permissible. The term was annual, and reelection of the eligible incumbents by the assembly of nobles (grand council) was normal "for the most part," according to Contarini. However, some 100 of the 220 senators were ex-officio members by virtue of holding another office, which usually rotated. Hence only about 120 members of the senate (55%) were eligible for reelection. As a body the senate was fairly low in the pyramid of power. [Ibid., Lane, pp. 96, 204, 429; Contarini, pp. 66, 68].
The Venetian disdain for democracy, and the preference for aristocracy based not on wealth but on nobility of lineage, is argued forcefully in Contarini, pp. 16-18.
Francesco Guicciardini, The
History of Italy, trans. and ed., Sidney Alexander (New York: The Macmillan
Co., 1969), pp. 79, 82.
Lane, p. 271, notes: "In spite of weaknesses in the Venetian constitution, it provided better government than was generally found elsewhere, and all signs indicate that it enjoyed popular support." No troops were needed to hold down the populace, and no popular uprising ever took place against the rule of the nobles.
Contarini, pp. 32-33; cf. Lane, p. 109.
Contarini, pp. 77, 79, 81; cf. Lane, pp. 116-17. The council of ten had the power of inquiry into sedition or tyranny. The ten were a kind of internal police able to suppress and punish political insurrection from below, or attempted despotism from above.
Thomas Carlyle, The French
Revolution: A History, 3 vols. (1837), vol. III, p. 200;
cf. pp. 100, 161-62.
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws 2.3, trans. Richter, pp. 183-84; cf. 11.6, pp. 245-46.
James Harrington, The Oceania and
Other Works..., ed. John Toland (London: A. Millar, 1737), pp. 314-15, 434,
504. The lower house of parliament was to have 1050 members, the upper
house 300. In both assemblies terms would be three years, followed by an
"interval or vacation equal to the term," (p.
In Venice, the lack of complete vacations from the inner circle enabled the same men to stay in power by simply changing hats; this was a defect in the Venetian system, according to Harrington (p. 314).
Ibid., p. 54. Also, Harrington regarded oligarchy as "least fit for government," because, said he, the lust of government, "libido dominandi," reigns more in incumbent oligarchs than in kings or the people (p. 500).
Ibid., p. 161. On rotation see also pp. 55-57, 124-25, 140, 161, 303-23, 523, 623-24, 629, 632.
Niccolo Machiavelli, History of Florence: From the Earliest Times to the Death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, in World's Greatest Literature, vol. 35 (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1901), p. 121, cf. pp. 164, 171-72, 185, 212, attributes the history of domestic discord in Florence primarily to the enmities between the popular classes and the nobility. See also Felix Gilbert, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Politics and History in Sixteenth-Century Florence (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965), pp. 19-20.
Bella Duffy, The Tuscan Republics (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1898), pp. 105, 108.
Ibid., p. 105; Machiavelli, History of Florence, pp. 59-60, 64, 66-67, 172, 230-31; Ferdinand Schevill, History of Florence (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1936), pp. 153-54, 162, 209-10, 223, 277, 279; Gilbert, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, pp. 13-16. Under the priors the two next most important boards were the balia, or twelve good men, and the 16 captains of the military companies; the membership of both rotated no less rapidly than annually, as did also various lesser boards.
Francesco Guicciardini, The History of Italy, trans. Austin Parke Goddard, 10 vols. (London: John Towers, 1755), 2:171; cf. Guicciardini, History of Italy, trans. Alexander, p. 121.
Also, Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws 2.3, trans. Richter, p. 184 and footnotes; said that rotation more rapid than annual is contrary to the function of government, and can only exist in small republics, of which he cites Lucca, where rotation was bimonthly, and Ragusa (Dubrovnik) in Dalmatia where the top official rotated monthly. On Lucca see also, Staring, ed., The Complete Anti-Federalist, 2:253.
On the lot, or scrutino and borse, introduced in 1328, see Machiavelli, History of Florence, pp. 88-89, 230-31, 293, 341; Schevill, History of Florence, p. 209; Gilbert, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, pp. 17-18.
Guicciardini, History of Italy, pp. 78-79, 82. Both factions in 1495 Florence favor rotation, as portrayed by Guicciardini in composed speeches. The Soderini speech, which may approximate Guicciardini's views, would retain rotation in most offices, but abandon the lot. Also there would be a select council of "experienced and prudent citizens" elected by the popular assembly (p. 78). This select council would seem to be modeled on the Venetian inner circle and/or the Venetian senate.
On Machiavelli's moral bankruptcy see, for example, Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1961), pp. 162-63.
Nicolo Machiavelli, The Discourses 3.24, ed. Bernard Crick (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1970), pp. 473-74.
Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, pp. 23-25. As late as 1828 Macaulay observed that "throughout Europe" the study of antiquity was considered "an important part of education." [Macaulay, "History," (1828) in Essays, 1:287].
Livy, From the Founding of the City 3.21.2; cf. 3.19.3,5. Hereafter cited Livy.
Ibid., 3.30.5-7; cf. 3.64. On the interruption of tribunate rotation by the Gracchi brothers see, Livy, Periochae 58-59; Appian, The Civil Wars 1.2.14; Plutarch, Gaius Gracchus 8.2.
Livy 7.42.2; cf. 10.13.8, 27.6.7. See also the five endnotes immediately below.
As fully developed about 180 B.C. the certus ordo magistratuum staged the individual's advancement, by requiring election to the quaestorship before he became eligible to the praetorship, which in turn was prerequisite to election as consul. Each of these three offices were rotated annually, with a ten year interval mandated by law before reelection to the same magistracy. Also advancement to the next office was delayed by a required interval of two years. See, for example, A.E. Astin, "The Lex Annalis Before Sulla," Latomus: Revue D'Estudes Latines 16 (1957): 589, 602-03.
Leon Pol Homo, Roman Political Institutions from City to State (New York: : Alfred A. Knopf, 1929), pp. 160-62; Frank, History of Rome, pp. 216-18.
Montesquieu attributed the rise of Rome partly to the spur to action inherent in the annual consulship. Montesquieu, Montesquieu's Considerations On The Causes Of The Grandeur And Decadence Of The Romans, chap. 1, trans. Jehu Baker (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1894), p. 24.
Cicero, De Legibus 3.3.7,9. Cicero apparently began composition of this work about 52 B.C., eight years after formation of the first triumvirate.
Ibid., 3.2.5. The quotation in text is a restatement by Cicero of a principle propounded earlier by the Greeks.
Aristotle, The Politics 6.1.7, Loeb, p. 491. The principle is stated also by Aristotle as, "government of each by all, and of all by each in turn" (6.1.8).
Note the second line of reasoning examined in text, under the heading 'Early American Theories in Support of Rotation.'
According to Professor Sinclair, a superficial acquaintance with the Ethics and the Politics of Aristotle could be taken for granted among educated Europeans of the 18th century. [Aristotle, The Politics, trans. and ed. by Thomas A. Sinclair (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962), p. 13]. See also Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, pp. 23-24.
Aristotle, The Politics 3.4.5-7; 6.1.8-9.
A.H.M. Jones, Sparta (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967), p. 26; Xenephon, Hellenica 2.3.9-10; Plutarch, Agis 12.1, 16.2. According to Plato, Laws 3.692, Ephors were elected as good as by lot. The exact method of election is no longer known; Aristotle makes a vague reference to it in The Politics 2.6.16.
Aristotle, The Politics 2.6.14.
Xenephon, Constitution of Sparta 15.6.
The demos or citizen body was,
however, itself a minority of the populace. The citizen body entitled to
vote in Athens numbered several tens of thousands.
The council of areopagus was a significant element of government until 462 B.C., when Ephialtes managed to have most of its powers distributed to the council of 500, the assembly, and the law courts -- the latter being essentially ad hoc committees of the assembly.
Aristotle, Constitution of Athens 4.3, 46.1, 62.3; P.J. Rhodes, The Athenian Boule (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1972), pp. 1, 3, 6-8; A.H.M. Jones, Athenian Democracy (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1957), p. 105; Charles Hignett, A History of the Athenian Constitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 153, cf. pp. 237-244.
Aristotle, Constitution of Athens 45.4; Rhodes, ibid., pp. 52, 80-81; Jones, ibid., p. 105.
There were two brief lapses in democracy toward the end of the Peloponnesian War. Also, re the council of 500 during the years after the end of independence for Athens (post-322 B.C.) see Rhodes, The Athenian Boule.
The Athenian political system included numerous subordinate offices, mostly administrative in nature, which were held in annual rotation. The notable exception to rotation was the office of general: the ten strategos served annual terms and were reeligible. [Aristotle, Constitution of Athens 47-60 and 62.3; Rhodes, ibid., p. 3].
In the Federalist Papers, no. 63, Madison observes that a senate like body,..."may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next."
 Carl Hulse, “2 Chambers That Don’t Understand Each Other,” The New York Times, online ed., 12 May 2003.
 Aristotle, The Politics, 6.7, trans. and ed. by Thomas A. Sinclair, p. 207.
See also, Robert Struble, Jr. &
Z.W. Jahre, "Rotation in Office: Rapid but Restricted to the House," PS:
Political Science and Politics 24 (March, 1991): 34-37. Note that
prior to the publication of this article, a statement dated January 21, 1991
was notarized and is still somewhere in the author's files. It reads as
"This statement clarifies the identiy of Z.W. Jahre. The translation for `twenty years' into German is zwanzig Jahre, and I have adopted the nom de plume, Robert Struble, Jr. and Z.W. Jahre, for the following four reasons:
. to suggest the twenty years of research and work that went into the as yet unpublished book which is currently titled Intervention By Convention, including the system of rotation in office set forth in the sixth chapter and in the forthcoming article for PS: Political Science and Politics (March 1991).
. to indicate the multiplicity of inputs, i.e. the ideas and recommendations, and the research by others, that influenced the course of my pen.
. to employ the first person plural in combination with a persuasive literary style, rather than the more arrogant sounding `I'.
. to contradict the conclusion that I am recommending particular policies because I attribute superior qualities or capacities to myself. Sincerely, Robert Struble, Jr."
I'm not sure why, at the tender age of 47, I went to such trouble in documenting my choice of a pen name. Perhaps because I'd never heard of a pseudonym that professed two authors rather than one. In any case it must have made me uncomfortable, because old Z.W. never made it into print again.
U.S. Congress, Senate, Congressional Tenure, Hearings before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Committee of the Judiciary, 75 Congress 2, 14-15 March 1978, pp. 133-39. The limitation of congressional tenure would have ranged from 12 to 18 years for both Houses of Congress, as proposed in 13 of the bills. Another three bills proposed 12 year limits to consecutive service in the Senate, and either eight or ten year limits to consecutive service in the House.
Calculated from Stuart A. Rice, Quantitative Methods In Politics (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), pp. 296-97, table 46. My calculations on House tenure include the full two years to which each expiring House in question was elected. Tenure for the Congressmen elected 1790-1823 was 4.7 years; 4.2 years for 1824-1865; and 4.7 years for 1866-1898.
House and Senate tenure calculated from each Official Congressional Directory for each Congresss, 79th through 99th. Congressional and Supreme Court Tenure based on average tenure of the incumbents as of January 1, each odd numbered year, 1947-1987. See also, Struble, "House Turnover," p. 650 including fn. 4.
Robert Struble, Jr. and Z.W. Jahre, "Reply to Parenti," P.S.: Political Science & Politics 24 (December 1991), p. 632.
Telephone conversation, June 1989, Peele, op. cit.
In the French original: "...par la disposition des choisis, le pouvoir arrete le pouvoir." Montesquieu, De L'Espirit Des Lois 11.4.
The most important aspect of the metamorphic effects of power is, according to Professor Kipnis, the powerholder's changing perception of others, especially his tendency to devalue the worth of the less powerful, and to increase the social distance between them and himself. Kipnis, The Powerholders (supra, fn. 18), pp. 176, 178.
David Broder debate with John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, at December 4, 1990 AlCT meeting (Americans to Limit Congressional Terms) in Washington, D.C.
 Alan I. Abramowitz, Brad Alexander, and Matthew Gunning, “Incumbency, Redistricting, and the Decline of Competition in U.S. House Elections,” paper for the Southern Political Science Association meeting, January 6-8, 2005. http://www.emergingdemocraticmajorityweblog.com/spsa/spsa.html The authors are political science professors at Emory University.
 Ibid. See tables 2 and 3 and figure 7.
Michael Parenti, Democracy for the Few, 4th ed., (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983), p. 334.
Mason's address in , Eliot, ed., Debates, 3:485. See also section 5 of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights (largely authored by Mason) which stated that members of the executive and legislative branches "should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station," in order that they "may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burthens of the people."
 G.P. Baker, Constantine the Great and the Christian Revolution (NY: Cooper Square Press, originally published, 1930), p.
On leadership in task groups see, for example, Charles R. Holloman, "Leadership and Headship: There is a Difference," Personnel Administration 31 (1968): 38-44.
The Venetian system generally required service in lower offices prior to service in the inner circle. In republican Rome, the certus ordo magistratuum mandated service in subordinate offices prior to the term as consul.
Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol, 3 November 1774. Quoted in Bartletts Quotations, 15th ed., p. 372.
Until incumbency became such an impediment to entry and reentry into the House, a return to the constituency for a lengthy interval did not seem to be a great obstacle to another period of service later in life. The century bounded by the elections of 1794-1894 was an era of informal rotation in office; these years saw more former Congressmen reelected to the House than at any time since. An average of 6.1% of each House consisted of former Congressmen. But from 1896-1950 just 2.8% per election were returnees, and only 1.0% for the elections of 1952-1976. During the period 1794-1894, 400 of the 693 former Congressmen had been out of office four years or more before they returned. [Calculated mostly from Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the Congress of the United States, ed. William B. Dickinson, Jr., et. al., first ed. (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1971), pp. 2a-175a].
Calculated for the elections 1964 through 1988, from CQ Weekly Report 33 (6 December 1975): 2650, and the immediate post-election issues for subsequent years. In these 13 elections there were some 434 Senate races; 131 Congressmen ran and 49 (37%) won.
As Montesquieu observed, neither aristocracy nor democracy is naturally free, for "political liberty exists only in those governments where power is moderated.... Indeed even virtue itself must be kept within bounds." [Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws 11.4, in Richter, p. 244].
The Virginia plan, for example, which
the Convention of 1787 shaped and elaborated into the Constitution, provided in
its fifth resolution that members of the Senate ought, "to hold their
offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency."
The Federalist Papers, no. 63, paragraph 7, states that "such an institution [the Senate] may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions...against the tyranny of their own passions."
Carl Russell Fish, The Civil Service and the Patronage (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1905).
Debate with John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, at December 4, 1990 AlCT meeting in Washington, D.C.
A related question was stated in 1974 by Professor Ray of Stanford University: "It is frequently asserted that increased membership stability, by producing more professional legislators, will lead to more effective legislative bodies. But while this assertion is widely accepted, it is also completely untested. There has been no effort to document the presumed consequences of membership stability." [David Ray, "Membership Stability in Three State Legislatures: 1893-1969," APSR 68 (March 1974): 111-112]. Also on legislative effectiveness, it is noteworthy that the members of the first U.S. Congress -- who were effective enough to give us the Bill of Rights -- had a congressional incumbency that averaged less than six months upon the completion of that document in September, 1789.
Former Congressman Jim Coyne found his own freshman class was the one, more than other tenure groups in the House, to push limits on the staff over Speaker Jim Wright's objections. Speech before Americans to Limit Congressional Terms meeting, 12/17/94, Washington, D.C.
Aristotle, The Politics 2.6.14, Loeb, p. 141.
The members of congress who served
under the rotation provisions of the Articles of Confederation included many
able men, such as: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee,
James Madison, James Monroe, Charles Pinckney, Edmund Randolph, John Rutledge,
Roger Sherman, Melancthon Smith, James Wilson.
After ratification of the Articles of Confederation, March 1, 1781, the official term for the continental congress became the Confederation Congress. In common parlance the former term continued to be used.
On the Confederation see, for example, Harold Whitman Bradley, The United States 1492-1877 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972), p. 86; also Jensen, The Articles of Confederation (supra fn. 39).
Joseph Cooper and William West, "Voluntary Retirement, Incumbency and the Modern House," Political Science Quarterly 96 (Summer 1981): 283, 288-90, 292.
Citizens and Politics: A View from Main Street America, Prepared for the Kettering Foundation by The Harwood Group (Dayton, Ohio: 1991), p 28; Richard F. Fenno, Jr., "If, as Ralph Nader says, Congress is The Broken Branch, How Come We Love our Congressmen so Much," in Norman J. Ornstein, ed., Congress in Change (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1975), pp. 277-280. See also endnote 167.
A Gallup survey on confidence in
American Institutions conducted annually, 1973 through 1988, found an average
of 36% of Americans expressing "a great deal" or "quite a
lot" of confidence in Congress. The remaining 64% responded
"some," or "very little," or no opinion. Congress
finished seventh out of ten institutions surveyed, behind church/organized
religion (64%), the military (57%), banks (51%), the U.S. Supreme Court (49%),
public schools (49%), newspapers (37%). Only television, organized labor,
and big business trailed Congress in public confidence. [The Gallup Report,
no. 279, December 1988, p. 30].
Primary and general election results are calculated from CQ Weekly Report 38 (5 April 1980): 908, and subsequent post-election November issues. Of the incumbent Congressmen who ran in the 11 elections of 1968-1988, an average of 94.0% were winners. Incumbent success over this time frame ranged from a low of 87.7% wins in 1974 to a high of 98.3% wins in 1988. If only the general election results are counted, the incumbent reelection rate for the same 11 elections is 95.5%.
 During the ratification debates of 1788, Melanchton Smith of New York stated: “If I recollect right, it was observed by an honorable member from New York, that this amendment would be an infringement on the natural rights of the people. I humbly conceive, if the gentleman reflects maturely on the nature of his argument, he will acknowledge its weakness. What is government itself but a restraint upon the natural rights of the people: What constitutions was ever devised that did not operate as a restraint on their original liberties: What is the whole system of qualifications, which take place in all free governments, but a restraint? Why is a certain age made necessary? why a certain term of citizenship? This Constitution itself, sir, has restraints innumerable.” Eliot, ed., Debates, 2: 310-11.
 U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, May 22, 1995., Justice Clarence Thomas dissented:
“Indeed, the invocation of democratic principles to invalidate Amendment 73 seems particularly difficult in the present case, because Amendment 73 remains fully within the control of the people of Arkansas. If they wanted to repeal it (despite the 20 point margin by which they enacted it less than three years ago), they could do so by a simple majority vote. See Ark. Const., Amdt. 7.
“The majority appears to believe that restrictions on eligibility for office are inherently undemocratic. But the Qualifications Clauses themselves prove that the Framers did not share this view; eligibility requirements to which the people of the States consent are perfectly consistent with the Framers' scheme. In fact, we have described "the authority of the people of the States to determine the qualifications of their most important government officials" as "an authority that lies at the heart of representative government." Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 463 (1991) (internal quotation marks omitted) (refusing to read federal law to preclude States from imposing a mandatory retirement age on state judges who are subject to periodic retention elections). When the people of a State themselves decide to restrict the field of candidates whom they are willing to send to Washington as their representatives, they simply have not violated the principle that "the people should choose whom they please to govern them." See 2 Elliot 257 (remarks of Alexander Hamilton at the New York convention).
“At one point, the majority suggests that the principle identified by Hamilton encompasses not only the electorate's right to choose, but also "the egalitarian concept that the opportunity to be elected [is] open to all." See ante, at 13-14; see also ante, at 41-42. To the extent that the second idea has any content independent of the first, the majority apparently would read the Qualifications Clauses to create a personal right to be a candidate for Congress, and then to set that right above the authority of the people of the States to prescribe eligibility requirements for public office. But we have never suggested that "the opportunity to be elected" is open even to those whom the voters have decided not to elect. On that rationale, a candidate might have a right to appear on the ballot in the general election even though he lost in the primary. But see Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 726, n. 16 (1974); see also Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 142-143 (1972) (rejecting the proposition that there is any fundamental right to be a candidate, separate and apart from the electorate's right to vote).”
 Baker, Constantine the Great, p. 343.
 Noreena Hertz, The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy, op. cit., p. 200.
 Hertz, Ibid., p 106, cities sources to the effect that voters with “great confidence or “quite a lot of confidence” in the British Parliament fell from 54% to 10% from 1983-1996.
 Hertz, Ibid., pp. 196-200.
 Ibid., p. 201.
 Ibid.p. 118, cf. pp. 112-125. Hertz goes on to break the spell: “Of course, such protest does not provide a long-term solution to the Silent Takeover.” (p. 200) She concludes her book with a “New Agenda,” pp. 209-10. If I understand the gist of her agenda, Hertz would like to see the power inherent in the culture of protest focused on reforms that render government an effective instrument of the people. The prerequisite is to disenfranchise corporations, thus cutting the purse strings that have put national governments into the pockets of plutocrats. Other reforms would then follow, with government as a friend, rather than a fop or a foe.
Hertz would also institute reforms on level of global quazi-government, including the formation of a counterpoise to the WTO — a World Social Organization, or WSO, to “establish rules and regulations” protecting “human rights, labor standards, and the environment” (pp. 210-212).
 Edwin O. Reischauer, Japan: Past and Present (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967), p. 122.
John Adams, Thoughts on Government (1776). The fifth of the Articles of Confederation required that delegates to congress "be annually appointed" by the States.
U.S. Statutes At Large, 1872, p. 28.
James MacGregor Burns, Leadership
(New York: Harper & Row, 1978), p. 149. Burns lays down a "fame
rule" which says that the coverage of political leaders decreases
geometrically as one descends from the figures of first importance to those of
second or third rank.
Although control of the House of Representatives had without exception gone to the Democrats since the election of 1954, 52 percent of the public polled in 1986 did not know which party controlled the House at that time. [Stephen Earl Bennett & Linda L.M. Bennett, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Americans' Knowledge of Party control of the House of Representatives, 1960-1984, Political Research Quarterly 46 (March 1993): 67].
In 1989 the congressional salary was $89,500 plus expenses, or 3.6 times America's median household income of $24,897 in 1986. By 1991 congressional pay had jumped to $125,100.
Aristotle, Constitution of Athens 43.4.
Article V of the Articles of Confederation provided, "a power reserved to each state, to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead, for the remainder of the Year."
Book of the States, 1994-95 (Lexington, Kty.: The Council of State Government, 1994), pp. 305-06, lists 16 States with provisions for recall of State officials. After California, Oregon and Rhode Island have the easiest petition requirements [15% of voters in recent election] but RI limits the recall process to executive officials. Montana’s 15% requirement pertains to the larger block of eligible voters. The most restrictive of the 16 states is Kansas where petitioners must persuade 40% of the electorate to sign before the question of recall goes on the ballot. The remaining 34 states have no recall provisions.
Ibid.. In California 12% of votes cast at the last election, are the petition requirements for most offices -- although to recall a State legislator the petitioners must number respectively 15% and 20%. In the remaining thirteen States from 25% to 40% is required for a recall election.
 Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention (Supra, fn. 46), 2:632; Eliot, ed., Debates, 3:485.
[U.S. Congress, House, document no. 398, 69 Congress 1, 1927, Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States, pp. 1041-42].