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Cronin in Washington Post: Term Limits a Check Against Cult of Personality

Political Science Professor Tom Cronin contends in an op-ed in the Jan. 3 Washington Post that the 22nd Amendment, which limits U.S. presidents to two terms, is a practical if imperfect compromise between the need for energy, decisiveness, and leadership in the presidency and the republican principle of rotation in office. The article, titled “Term Limits Are a Check Against an American Cult of Personality,” is derived from a “Faculty Point of View” article that Cronin penned in the most recent issue of Colorado College’s Bulletin, titled “Why We Have the Twenty-Second Amendment.”

Cronin says that the two-term limit encourages fresh ideas and helps prevent the hardening of political arteries., and that U.S. political parties are rejuvenated by the challenge of nurturing, recruiting, and nominating a new team of national leaders at least every eight years.

Cronin, author of “The Paradoxes of the American Presidency” and “Leadership Matters,” also says in the op-ed piece, “Americans have high expectations of their presidents, yet the presidency has never been viewed as a job with tenure. Eight years is ample time to launch important policies; if these policies are valued and accepted by majorities, they will be continued.”

The Washington Post op-ed goes on to say that U.S. constitutional democracy contains an intrinsic tension: The American people are sovereign, yet even they need checks and balances. That’s why we have certain filters: elected representatives rather than pure democracy, the Bill of Rights as a safeguard against majority rule, federalism, and three branches of government. The 22nd Amendment is another safeguard.