Things I can’t bring myself to care about

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by Jeff Fecke | March 30, 2009 • The fact that Tim Pawlenty once supported a two-term limit for governor, but now could theoretically be persuaded to run for a third term.*

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, is now available.

Term limits are a terrible, undemocratic idea. Yes, we know some incumbents get to Washington or St. Paul and never leave, even when they probably should. But there’s a way to get rid of a firmly ensconced incumbent, and that’s to vote against them. If a majority of the voters want to continue sending Sen. John Q. Cobblepot, R-East Carolina, back to his seat even though he’s 123 years old and has been serving for 72 years…well, that’s the voters’ right. Denying them the chance to vote for a long-serving official doesn’t accomplish anything; if the voters of East Carolina are strong Republicans, you’re just trading an experienced politician for an inexperienced one.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m no fan of incumbents staying in office forever, and I think turnover is good. And to that end, I think there’s merit to eliminating some of the structural advantages incumbents enjoy, and reforming others. But simply barring incumbents from running is a terrible idea; I may not want Tim Pawlenty to win a third term in office, but if a plurality of my fellow Minnesotans do, then the small-d democratic thing to do is let him serve. I’m glad Gov. Pawlenty has come to agree with this, even if it’s self-serving.

This was an inane argument in 2002 when it was levied against Paul Wellstone, and it’s an inane argument now. I don’t support Tim Pawlenty, and I hope he loses should he run for re-election. But there are all sorts of reasons that he should lose, from his budgetary shell games to his anti-tax zealotry to his inability to work well with members of the opposing party. If the DFL can’t find a candidate able to make that case (and given the history of the last 20 years, they probably can’t), then they deserve to lose.

*He won’t run for a third term, but it’s a possibility until he rules it out.

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