Increasing the bar for reelection

2019-07-04 2 min read

    I avoid writing about politics but in honor of July 4th I decided to pen some thoughts around elections.

    Last year I wrote a post proposing that all laws should be temporary and upon expiration require a higher and higher majority to be sustained. What if we adopt a similar policy for electing politicians? In the United States different offices have different term limits: a Supreme Court Justice has a lifetime appointment, a senator has 6 years, a president has 4 (and limited to two terms), and a congressperson has 2. The intuition behind these is that a Supreme Court Justice should have a long term outlook and not be influenced by any short term incentives. I don’t know why the others have such specific term limits or why a senator term is longer than a presidential term while a congressperson term is shorter than a presidential term. The intent of these is to avoid corruption by giving people a chance to course correct if a political is not working out but the exact years and the ratios between the offices feel arbitrary.

    What if similar to the temporary law proposal we had no term limits but made the reelection requirement increase over time? For example requiring political candidates to require a larger fraction of the vote in every subsequent election. This biases towards new politicians but gives strong incumbents the ability to keep getting reelected. The motivation is to decrease the likelihood of lifetime politicians and encourage officials that are actually closer to the people. In fact, while doing some research for this post I came across the Wikipedia article for US term limits that highlighted that in the Roman Republic some elected officials only held office for a single year and were unable to run again for 10. Imagine what our politicians would look like if we had a similar policy in place. I bet our representation would be much more reflective of our actual demographics.