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My six-point plan for cleaner campaigns

May 16, 2019

Any politician who supports term limits loses my vote.

This is part of my six-point plan to end pandering, manipulation and loose talk in campaigns.

Every candidate knows term limits poll well. Ask if the bums should be thrown out, and 75 percent of those polled will say “yes.” The confines of the question don’t allow for a thoughtful response.

In truth, term limits are cynical. They assume mandatory turnover is necessary for governments to run well. Term limits also rob power from voters by eliminating candidates they might prefer.

Alexander Hamilton put it well when he said: “The true principle of a republic is that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.”

Hamilton spoke those words in 1788. I mention him now because Gavin Clarkson, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in New Mexico, just signed a pledge supporting term limits for members of Congress.

He has endorsed the proposal of the advocacy group U.S. Term Limits. Its idea is for members of the U.S. House of Representatives to be limited to six years in office and for U.S. senators to be restricted to 12 years.

This system would guarantee nothing more than a rapid rise for the inexperienced.

The speaker of the House might receive her gavel after being in office for all of two years. A first-term senator who knows less about government than most lobbyists could become majority leader.

Clarkson might not get the nomination of his party in the 2020 Senate election. Even if he does, he’s a long shot to win the general election.

New Mexico voters haven’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since the late Pete Domenici won his sixth term in 2002. Domenici sat in the Senate for 36 years — three times longer than Clarkson says is appropriate.

Republicans didn’t complain about career politicians during Domenici’s era. His longevity helped him bring home money for New Mexico’s labs and military installations.

Some called it pork, but no state is more dependent on federal largess than New Mexico. Domenici knew it, and so did voters who reelected him by wide margins.

Here’s the rest of my six-point plan to clean up campaigns:

The sky is falling: Laugh at politicians who fire off solicitations for money by claiming the free world is at stake unless you donate. Congressman Ben Ray Luján, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, is a chief offender. His pitches are extreme. It’s almost as though you have to give Luján $5 or Mitch McConnell will take over your neighborhood.

The pollsters: Everyone running for office will say the only poll that counts is the one by voters on Election Day. Then many of these same candidates will recite polls that say America has a border crisis or most people favor legalization of recreational marijuana. Tell them statistics are for losers.

Murdering the language: Distrust candidates who say “at this point in time.” John Dean popularized this redundancy during the Watergate hearings. It has polluted the language since. “At this point” will do.

It’s my birthright: Few claims are more meaningless than those from candidates who claim family history is a credential for holding office. New Mexico politicians are the worst in this regard. Many start every appeal for votes by saying something like this: “As a 14th-generation New Mexican, I know every mountain, arroyo and roadrunner in the state.” Terrific. Now what about the chuckholes in the streets and the addicts who’ve taken over my neighborhood park?

Salute or else: Reject candidates who say kids in public schools should be required to start the day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Someone seeking public office ought to know that governments cannot mandate patriotism. Plus, many of these same candidates will tell you the state and federal governments should butt out so school boards can do their job.

I’ve kept my list short for a reason.

Lincoln only needed three minutes for the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War. Campaign reform can begin in 700 words.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

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