Beware of Politicians’ False Rhetoric on Voter Choice

When a politician puts a measure on the ballot to weaken or repeal his own term limits, he’ll often tell critics, “I’m not against term limits. I’m for giving voters a choice.”

He uses this language out of necessity, because opposing term limits is political suicide. Polls show that between 70-80 percent of voters hate the idea of loosening limits on politicians. We are a country that wants more term limits, not less.

At first glance, letting voters choose seems reasonable. But as one digs deeper, it becomes clear that the “choice” is really a ploy cooked up by politicians to protect their careers.

Here’s why:

Where are the other choices?

If politicians believe so deeply in choice, where are the choices that don’t benefit them? We’ve never seen them give voters a choice to slash their pay in half. Or how about a choice to make term limits even tighter? Nope. Politicians withhold any choices that might hamper their access to a cushy job.

They will fool the voters.

Remember, four out of every five voters will say “NO” when asked if they want to repeal term limits. But politicians cannot get rid of term limits without voters’ approval!

Crafty pols overcome this obstacle by devising schemes to fool pro-term limits voters into voting against term limits, through the use of misleading ballot language.

Imagine walking into the voting booth on Election Day and seeing a question asking whether you support “establishing term limits on elected officials?” If you’re like most people, you’ll vote “YES” in a heartbeat.

The next day, it’s revealed that your “YES” vote actually helped weaken term limits that already existed. You were tricked into “choosing” an option you didn’t really support. This isn’t a made-up situation. It actually happened in Arkansas in 2014. A similar scam succeeded in California in 2012, and one is set to appear on the Nashville citywide ballot this August. Not only is real choice nonexistent when legislatures push something to the ballot, but the options that do appear are rigged to ensure politicians get their way – even if the people get swindled in the process.

Elections Are Determined by More Than Good Ideas

Even the most virtuous campaign needs resources to develop a message, communicate it and mobilize voters. That’s why the more well-financed side wins almost every time.

In term limits campaigns, the side trying to wreck term limits will have greater resources at its disposal. Special interests and corporations spend big to keep their favored legislators in office, because that’s much easier than having to purchase a new one every eight years. When term limits go away, these moneyed interests win access at the people’s expense.

Citizens fighting to keep term limits would have no problem winning in spite of the financial gap…if the other side were willing to play fair. But a scam ballot title combined with monetary might is often too much to overcome.

Next time a politician claims he wants to “let the people choose” on term limits, remember what he’s really asking for. He’s asking to start a scheme against voters that begins with rhetoric and ends with getting to stay in office longer. He’s asking only to give you false choices that benefit his own career, while denying any choices that might get in the way. And finally, he’s asking that you allow deceptive ballot language to creep in and cheat citizens out of their preference for term limits.

Don’t be fooled into believing politicians’ phony rhetoric about choice. Choosing to keep these schemes off the ballot is the only sure way to protect term limits.

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