Amendment XXII – A Debate

Amendment XXII gives a two-term limit on presidency, and only allows a vice-president who takes over a president with other 2-years left in office, one more term.

41 of the 48 states agreed to ratify the proposal, with only 2 rejecting the amendment. It was made clear in the amendment that it would not affect those already in office, and so made it an easy choice for many states. Roosevelt had an unprecedented four terms in office, and so he had 16 years to make many major changes. The idea of having limits goes deep in US politics and delegates to the constitutional conventions considered the issue because of the fear of a leader maintaining too much power for too long.

There was an original plan from the 1787 delegates that the president wouldn’t have term limits and would be elected by congress, but saw the possibility of “corrupt bargains” where a President could give favours to congressmen in exchange for election. F. H. Buckley says term limits are America’s version of Britain’s motion’s of no confidence, and therefore brings British Prime Minister’s terms down to a similar length. Term limits install a level of protection from having too much power for too long, as it prevents a president from gaining too much experience and therefore learning how they can game the system to get their own way, such as learning which senators will vote a certain way and therefore in their own favour.

The role and power of the president has increased significantly since the Amendment was introduced, and if the power reached into the wrong hands, the damage could be even more detrimental than in the 40s.

In exchange for term limits and the protection of a leader with too much power, we lack the benefit of experienced leaders. In 1940, before the amendment, American’s faced a problem. Would they want to vote to give a leader with 12 years experience, Roosevelt, a 4th term in office or give it away to an unexperienced Wendell Willkie. This is the heart of the debate, what they gain in political freedom, they lose in experienced leaders. There is evidence to show that major mistakes and flailing occurs within the first 2 years of office – particularly with foreign policy – and with the 22nd amendment these occur far more often. For example with Obama’s Afghanistan Policy in 2009.

Repealing the 22nd amendment would lessen the possibility of stumbles and would remove the opportunity of having to constantly choose an unseasoned president. It wouldn’t require presidents to run again, or even immediately after. But if the opportunity was presented we would allow slightly more democracy in terms of who can become president.