Jonathan Zimmerman, a history professor at New York University, says it well.
Let’s repeal the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits presidents to two consecutive terms.
He wants to allow presidents to serve as long as the public can stand them.
His Washington Post essay lays out the case quite well. As one who opposes congressional term limits, I understand where Professor Zimmerman is coming from. Term limits already exist, in the form of elections.
Only one president ever has been elected more than twice consecutively: Franklin D. Roosevelt won a third term in 1940. He was elected to a fourth term in 1944, but died shortly after taking the oath in early 1945. His cousin Teddy was the first president to seek a third term. He served two terms consecutively after becoming president in 1901, after President William McKinley was murdered. He was elected in his own right in 1904, then walked away in 1909. He sought the presidency in 1912 as the Bull Moose candidate, but the office went to Woodrow Wilson.
Zimmerman takes note of President Obama’s low poll standing. It’s highly unlikely, at this moment at least, that he would be elected to a third term if he had the chance. Indeed, most presidents burn out after two terms. President Reagan lamented late in his second term that he would have liked the chance to run again. President Clinton said much the same thing near the end of his presidency.
The 22nd Amendment was enacted in 1947 by a Republican-controlled Congress to head off what some feared would be an imperial presidency. They didn’t like that FDR served seemingly forever. But he was the voters’ choice — four elections in a row!
As Zimmerman notes, even the Father of Our Country, George Washington, disliked the idea of term limits. “I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public,” Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette, according to Zimmerman.
Let these people serve until the voters say otherwise.