For decades we’ve been hearing about term limits on politicians. I think it’s a bad idea but the quaint concept of the “gentleman farmer” who serves briefly and returns to the farm doesn’t appear to be leaving soon.
Never seeing a populist movement he didn’t like, President Elect Donald Trump has recently proclaimed: “Drain the Swamp,” or impose term limits on Congress.
I think term limits are a bad idea because there is a learning curve to governing and right now the more experienced representatives (who, by the way, keep coming back because their constituents like them) mentor the new ones. They have the institutional memory but with term limits they go away. This places the institutional memory with career staffers and lobbyists. I have a great deal of faith with the staffers but if the representatives are still learning the job, the lobbyists have an unfair advantage.
Anyway, back to the swamp. While not true, it’s a common belief that Washington D.C. was built on a swamp. This makes “draining the swamp” a good bumper sticker.
When I grew up in nearby Virginia we thought of swamps as bad places, breeding grounds for mosquitoes and places unfit for swimming or boating. Draining a swamp was seen as progress.
But in the years since, we’ve learned that swamps are critical to the ecosystem and now call them wetlands. And we’ve learned that draining swamps is a bad idea. In 2005 the city of New Orleans suffered horrific floods with Hurricane Katrina. The horrific flooding was caused not just by the rain, but also because of a storm surge that previous wetlands would have stopped. You can read an excellent article here. Basically there were several causes of the disappearance of the wetlands but the result was clear: New Orleans was decimated by Katrina because the wetlands (swamps) were not there to protect it.
As a postscript, Mr. Trump’s nominees include Senator Jeff Sessions who has been a senator since 1997, Mike Pompeo who has been a representative since 2011, and Reince Priebus who, as RNC chairman has lived in Washington since 2011. I guess they won’t be drained.