Democracy is supposed to mean voting for the best person for the job
Last week, Ottawa, Canada was home to the annual Three Amigo’s Summit in which the Presidents of the United States and Mexico along with the Prime Minister of Canada got to together to discuss the important issues facing North Americans.
President Obama, only six months away from stepping down as President, was given the opportunity to address the Canadian Parliament. He did not disappoint. Speaking to the mainly liberal Canadian House of Commons, he gave one of his classic Obama speeches that was humorous, serious and full of hope.
At the end of the speech, the Canadian Parliament erupted in thunderous applause and as Obama sat down, Canadian MPs began to shout “four more years! Four more years!” It’s clear most of us liberal Canucks still love the guy.
I may have my reservations about the man, but he is still the best president the United States has had since Carter, and arguably the most progressive. So why is America giving him the boot? Because of the twenty-second amendment to the United States Constitution.
In my opinion, the twenty-second amendment was another clear cut case of American overreaction. For more than a hundred and fifty years, there was no presidential term limits. Then along came Franklin D. Roosevelt who took the country out of the great depression and transformed the United States into a global superpower, he just needed a little more than an extra term to do it.
Up until FDR, serving only two terms had been an unwritten rule in the United States. George Washington didn’t intend to set precedent, but because he refused to run for a third term due to age, it became tradition.
To this day FDR is the only president to serve more than two terms and more than eight years. It must have scared America stupid because in just six short years after Roosevelt’s untimely death, the twenty-second amendment was ratified by congress and 36 of the then 48 states. Now, every president is limited to just two terms.
Speaking as someone who has witnessed three Canadian Prime Ministers serve more than two terms in my short lifetime alone, I find it rather mind-boggling. Being able to elect the leader of your choice is after all at the cornerstone of democracy.
FDR did some extraordinary things during his time in office, but imagine if he were limited to just two terms. World War II may have turned out quite differently for America and its allies. Who can say for sure, but I know this next example will send a shiver down your spine.
After a decade or so of conservative rule in the United States and Canada, 1993 saw Liberal Leader Jean Chrétien become Prime Minister of Canada and Democrat Bill Clinton become President of the United States.
Both of them got re-elected to second terms easily, but despite high polling numbers, Clinton was forced to step down in 2001, while Prime Minister Chrétien got elected to his third straight majority government a year earlier.
Fast forward a couple years to 2003 and the start of the Iraq War. Bill Clinton watched from the sidelines as his now infamous replacement lied to his wife and the rest of congress about the dangers of Saddam Hussein.
America was soon at war, but Canada was not. Prime Minister Chrétien had called President Bush out on his bullshit. The difference was Canada was allowed to elect the leader of their choice while the United States was not. You can argue the twenty-second amendment in this case cost thousands of American lives and trillions of tax payer dollars.
Back to the present, we stand on the precipice of an unprecedented election where the two candidates are the most hated in history. While there are obvious differences between Hillary and Trump, they can both come off as kind of hawkish.
Regardless of who is elected, if another senseless war is started, we’ll all once again have to wonder if it could have been avoided if only Obama was allowed to seek a third term.
There is nothing wrong with electing leaders for more than two terms, and there is certainly nothing to fear. There are many countries around the world without set term limits, and yet there is a curious amount that have decided to follow the American model, but why?
Democracy is meant to keep our leaders in check, and judging by the strength of our democracies around the world, we’re doing just that. We might not always have someone good to vote for, but it would be nice to keep the good ones around awhile longer.