“Fixer Upper” and Term Limits

As much as I hate the idea of lifer politicians holding an office until the day they die, I’ve always been against the idea of term limits, for two simple reasons.

First, if I love Joe Incumbent and I want to keep voting for him over and over until he’s had to file a lawsuit so that his brain in a jar can be considered a candidate since he’s actually been dead for the last two election cycles… then I should be free to do that.

And second, I thought term limits were unnecessary because we’ve already got a mechanism in place to limit the amount of time any one individual can spend in office. It’s called “elections.”

But recently, Chip and Joana Gaines changed my mind about the whole term limits thing. They convinced me it’s a good idea.

The Gaineses are walking away from their very popular and successful TV show Fixer Upper. And they’re walking away by their own choice. There’s apparently nothing at all that would make them want to leave other than their stated reason of “recognizing that we need to catch our breath for a moment. Our plan is to take this time to shore up and strengthen the spots that are weak, rest the places that are tired and give lots of love and attention to both our family and our businesses.”

This is the rarest of all things: people choosing, of their own free will, to reduce their fame and status.

It’s as regular as the tides to hear someone say he’s leaving the Senate / governorship / board of directors / etc. to “spend more time with my family.” We all know that means, “I need to get out of here before my mistresses figure out that I’m not really divorcing my wife and decide to turn state’s evidence.” Nobody ever really steps out of the limelight for something as déclassé as a family. But that appears to be exactly what’s happening here.

Most human beings aren’t built to live as celebrities. They don’t take well to being surrounded by assistants and fans and sycophants and hangers-on and favor-seekers and toadies, as celebrities are, all of whom are constantly in their ears about how smart and talented and indispensable they are. They gradually start to believe that the sweet talk is all true; that they’re as great as everyone says.

And as far as I can tell, the most destructive thing about being a celebrity is that it makes you want to be a celebrity more. At some point you decide that the only thing that matters is maintaining that status. That’s why reality show producers will never be at a loss to find people willing to do the quickstep in a banana costume or eat wild boar testicles with Bear Grylls.

Faced with that possible future, Chip and JoJo did the healthiest thing you can do — they walked away.

Which leads me to my new opinion on term limits. Before, I had always looked at term limits as a means of protecting the voters. Which is why I was against them — I didn’t think the voters needed protecting. Sure, incumbents have a lot of advantages, but they still have to stand for elections, and voters should be smart enough to vote out the bad ones.

But thanks to Chip and JoJo, now I see term limits as a means for protecting our politicians. No one should be exposed to the kind of power and notoriety that you get as an officeholder in the federal government for long. Ultimately, term limits are in their best interests.

When people have to work in highly radioactive environments, they do it in very short shifts, rotating new workers in before anyone gets too much exposure. Maybe this is how we should look at government work too. Rotate a new crew in, let them do what they can, and then get them out of there before they’re permanently and gruesomely disfigured by exposure to chauffeured cars, cloying aides, and puff-piece interviews from throne-sniffing reporters.

In this, as in so many other renovation-related things, let’s let the Gaineses be our guides. Let’s use term limits to rescue our public servants from celebrity before it has a chance to destroy them. I’m sure people like Orrin Hatch (40(!) years in the Senate) and John Conyers (52(!!!) years in the House) will thank us.

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