By John J. Duncan Jr.
I have great respect for my fellow Focus columnist, Dr. Harold Black, and admire him for many reasons.
First and foremost, I admire the courage he had to be one of the first African-Americans to attend the University of Georgia, and he recently had a dorm named after him for doing so.
When I was 18, I was very bashful and was intimidated by UT. It seemed so big, although it was only about half the size it is now, and I was even a little scared because, in those days, many people flunked out.
But it did not take any courage for me to go there, and I really wanted to do so. I think it took courage for Dr. Black to do what he did, and I believe he must have had very good parents to be able to succeed with all the obstacles he had to overcome.
Secondly, it takes courage to be a conservative on most college and university faculties today because they are so overwhelmingly liberal.
When I was at UT, I became the token conservative on the UT Daily Beacon and wrote a weekly column for that paper. But once again, it took no courage for me to do that, and in fact, I enjoyed it.
Thirdly, it takes courage for Dr. Black to be a conservative in the African-American community today.
Unfortunately, most Black voters and most Black elected officials are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats. And look at the way the Black community has treated Justice Clarence Thomas.
To me, though, conservatism means freedom. I believe conservatism has been inaccurately portrayed in the Black community, and I believe that people who have a history of slavery should not now want to become slaves to big government.
I write all this because I had very great respect for Dr. Black long before I read his recent column about term limits.
When I saw the headline, I just assumed he would be for them since, as he pointed out, almost all polls on term limits show about 80% support for them. But my great respect for him grew even a little more when I read his very thoughtful column.
Obviously, since I served for 30 years in the U.S. House, I do not favor term limits except for the term limits we already have called elections. And there is more turnover in elective office today than probably anytime in history except for the very earliest days of the country’s existence. It really surprises people when I tell them that during my 30 years in the House, I served with almost 1500 other members.
House members do not get much publicity unless they become Speaker of the House, get in a major scandal, or work harder to get on tv than they do in working for their constituents. Thus, probably only political junkies could name more than 50 of those almost 1500 with whom I served. But, if term limits were imposed, people would never have heard of most of the greatest legislators of all time.
Most term limits proposals are for six or eight years, or 12 years at the longest. None of the legislators who have House or Senate office buildings or rooms at the Capitol named after them would have been heard of if their terms in office had been limited. Even Winston Churchill did not become well-known until many years after he first went into Parliament.
In every other profession, term limits would be seen as ridiculous. You wouldn’t tell a great surgeon that after six or eight years he had to go do something else. I was able to do a lot more for my district and solve more problems for my constituents in my later years in congress than in my earlier ones.
Our federal government is already far too bureaucratic and out of control. Term limits would make unelected bureaucrats even more powerful. The only way term limits could possibly work is if they were imposed on everyone in government, judges, the military, and especially bureaucrats. People would think this was ridiculous, and I do, too. Experience is almost always a good thing.
Everyone should think long and hard before they place term limits on elected officials, who are really the only ones in government over who they have effective control.