REPUBLICAN REVOLUTIONARIES AND TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: A PUBLIC CHOICE ANALYSIS OF CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITSExpressO (2011)
AbstractJames Madison warned that constitutional amendments rooted in the fleeting passions of the people, not their prudence, could undermine the stability of the Republic. Yet, between 1990 and 1994, short-lived anti-incumbent sentiment stirred the voters of twenty-two states to amend their constitutions by imposing term limits on members of Congress. Many legal scholars consider it to be the largest grassroots movement in recent American history. Then, in 1995, a narrow five to four majority of the United States Supreme Court derailed the movement, holding that state-initiated term limits are unconstitutional. The movement appeared to have lost its momentum until it resurfaced fifteen years later. In 2010, the populist Tea Party revitalized public support for a proposed term limits amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While there is a vast body of literature contemplating the impact term limits might have on the lawmaking process, little attention has been focused on why lawmakers would decide to back passage of this procedural tool. And yet, this is the pivotal issue, given Congress is the legislative body authorized to send a proposed constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. This Article attempts to fill this gap in the literature. Using public choice theory and empirical data, this Article develops a predictive model, which allows us to better calculate when, if ever, lawmakers might act to pass a proposed term limits amendment. The Article concludes that politicians will back term limits when both of two conditions are met: (1) they are members of a historically underrepresented political faction and (2) they see an opportunity to package widespread anti-incumbent sentiment into a popular political platform. The Article offers a tentative prediction for what might disrupt the contemporary term limits movement.
Publication DateMarch 16, 2011
Citation InformationKeith J Larson. "REPUBLICAN REVOLUTIONARIES AND TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: A PUBLIC CHOICE ANALYSIS OF CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS" ExpressO (2011)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/keith_larson/2/