Career Politicians on the Rise: How to Stem the Tide

Career Politicians on the Rise: How to Stem the Tide

Politics has become a new profession. 

The trend creating “career politicians” has been growing for decades, and it has surely contributed to the entrenchment of power in D.C. and its separation from the will of the American people. 

Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post states, “There are many more people populating our state legislatures and U.S. Congress who have never done anything outside of being a professional politician than there were even a few decades ago.

David Mendoza has created a revealing chart to show just how large a shift has occurred. He compiled data on politicians’ job background, including representatives and senators from the 89th Congress in 1965 through the 113th in 2013, categorizing the jobs members had before being elected. Here’s what it looks like: 

and for the Senate: 

Especially interesting is the decline in military veterans compared to career politicians. Who would you trust more to preserve American freedoms in legislature – those who have already taken risks to protect them or those who are used to having power and using it to shape our country into their own vision? Would you rather have representatives who are thinking of their constituents’ interests or those contemplating how they can best advance their own career?

How did this trend get so out of hand? And how do we get back?

Here are some ideas:

Term limits for members of Congress have been championed by various groups for some time now, but there’s just one problem – such limits would have to be passed by Congress, which is, by definition, entirely made up of politicians. Does anyone think they’d be likely to vote to send themselves home?

Advocacy organizations like U.S. Term Limits have tried getting a measure through the federal legislature. They even convinced 39 newly elected representatives in 1994 to sign a self-limiting pledge. Not surprisingly, a third of those broke their pledge. As we learned from Lord of the Rings, those who have power are reluctant to give it up. 

As a headline put it, “Most everyone seems to agree on term limits but career politicians.” Seventy-five percent of voters support limiting congressional terms, but the politicians in Washington, D.C., will never allow that. The only way to rein them in is for the people to do it themselves. 

Our Constitution allows for the people to take action precisely in situations such as this. A Convention of States as outlined in Article V of our Constitution provides for states to propose amendments outside of Congress. This is the method that U.S. Term Limits has since endorsed. State representatives propose amendments in the Convention, which are ratified by the states just as an amendment proposed by Congress. If three-quarters of Americans agree that term limits should be in place, such an amendment would be sure to pass.

And career politicians couldn’t do anything about it but wonder what happened as they pack their bags and head back home.

Mark Meckler is the President of Citizens for Self-Governance, which created the Convention of States Project.


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