Jon Mark Beilue: Five Minutes to Remember

June 27, 2019

Five Minutes to Remember

Rausch speaks to Senate sub-committee on term limits

By JON MARK BEILUE

Dave Rausch was gathering some material and about to head to a meeting on June 5 when his office phone rang. The Teel Bivins Professor of Political Science glanced at the caller ID.

“Congress.” And to make it more official, it had a 202 area code, which is for Washington, D.C.

“I thought who in the world from Congress would be calling me?” Rausch said. “I thought it might be a friend of mine calling wanting some information.”

So Rausch did what maybe a lot of people might not have done – went on to his meeting. But on his return, he did play the message that was left. It was from a staffer in Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) office.

The message? Would Dr. Rausch find it in his schedule to come to Washington on June 18 as part of a panel to speak in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution? The subject: term limits.

A political science professor from West Texas A&M University invited to speak on term limits before elected members of the United States Senate? Well, yes, he believed he could make it.

“I’m sure they did a Google search for term limits and if you scroll long enough, my name will come up several dozen times,” he said, “and it didn’t hurt that I’m from Texas.”

As Rausch said, and as he said in his statement to the Senate sub-committee, “I’ve studied term limits for so many years that a graduate colleague regularly tells me that there should be term limits on people who study term limits.”

senate

*Dr. Dave Rausch speaks to the United States Senate about term limits.

Term limits is a topic that is always bubbling at the surface of an often upset American voting public. A poll in 2018 by McLaughlin and Associates found that 82 percent favor Congressional term limits, and that was consistent along party and racial lines. A Gallup survey in 2013 was similar – 75 percent in support.

“The main thing is frustration,” Rausch said. “Most people are frustrated at Congress, and this is how to get back at them. It seems like every part of the country has a poster child of someone who has been in Congress too long, and this is the way to get back at them.”

Cruz, who is in favor of term limits, is chairman of the Constitutional sub-committee. Rausch was on the panel with former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), Casey Burgat, senior fellow at R Street Institute Governance Project, Lynda Powell, political science professor at Rochester University, and Nick Tomboulides, executive director of U.S. Term Limits.

Each speaker at the Dirksen Senate Office Building had to submit their prepared text in advance, not for approval, but to give to committee members, and to be put on a website for interested media. Each speaker was limited to five minutes.

“You can’t see it in the video,” Rausch said, “but there is a box that has a clock. As you’re talking into the microphone, you can see that clock counting down from five minutes. For someone who is a professor and used to talking at length, that’s a little unnerving.”

Rausch alluded to the sub-committee his doctorate dissertation at the University of Oklahoma in 1995 and the term limit phenomenon in state legislatures from 1990 to 1995 as well as term limits on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in California. In addition, Rausch has published a number of articles on the effect of term limits on elections in Oklahoma.

“My research suggests that term limits have not had all of the positive effects predicted by supporters during the state level campaigns,” Rausch told the sub-committee, “while also illustrating that legislatures have been able to avoid many of the negative consequences posited by term limit opponents.”

Rausch noted that research has shown in state legislatures with term limits, more women were running for open seats and are more likely to be successful. Minority representation has likely increased because of term limits.

“Political science needs to better understand how legislative terms limits change the status and work of state legislatures,” Rausch said in his statement. “Does the length of the limits make a difference? I would like to be able to determine the term limit that best amplifies the positive effects of term limits while maintaining the delicate balance between the three branches of government.”

Rausch believes it’s a longshot to ever see term limits in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Unlike state legislatures, it would take a Constitutional amendment to enact them, meaning it must be ratified by a majority of states.

That’s a lot of political red tape even though the 22nd amendment, ratified by the states in 1951, limited the presidency to two terms after the four terms of Franklin Roosevelt.

“If term limits work and make government better, I’m all in favor of them. I’d contribute money,” he said. “If they make Congress weaker and not make government better, there’s no reason to enact them.”

But Rausch has always been fascinated by the study of them. While a grad student at OU, a scholar of the presidency from Colorado College was a guest lecturer. At lunch, he told some students of Colorado’s legislature enacting term limits and suggested someone should do a dissertation of the subject.

“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I need to write one of those,’” Rausch said.

He spent time as a grad student working with polling on term limits when Oklahoma eventually voted to adopt it. “Really, term limits found me,” he said.

And so there was Rausch on June 18, speaking to Cruz, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and eventually, joined by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).  Behind him was a room packed with interns.

“I was incredibly nervous going into it,” Rausch said, “but once I sat down and started talking about term limits, this is something I could do at the drop of a hat. If anything, maybe I was a little too relaxed.”

Do you know of a student, faculty member, project, an alumnus or any other story idea for “WT: The Heart and Soul of the Texas Panhandle?” If so, email Jon Mark Beilue at jbeilue@wtamu.edu.

 

—WTAMU—


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