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Removing the Two-Term Limit

Once he has left office, President Reagan would like to start a movement to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution that limits Presidents to two terms in office. That’s good. But, better yet, the President should start right now. Prospects for the repeal might be enhanced if the proposal got a head of steam up before the next President takes office.

The proposed amendment could be written, of course, so that it would not apply to Reagan’s successor but would only begin with the next Chief Executive, the nation’s 42nd. That way, Republicans would not automatically oppose repeal if a Democrat wins next year because the repeal might give the sitting Democrat a chance to run for a third term. Or ditto if a Republican wins next year.

The 22nd Amendment was proposed in 1947 in reaction to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election to his third and fourth terms in 1940 and 1944. Never again, Republicans declared. Of course, during the height of Reagan’s popularity many Republicans would have been delighted to have Reagan run for a third term were he legally able.

The only President to run for a third term was reelected in the midst of world crisis and chosen for a fourth term under similar conditions. Even with repeal of the 22nd, it is not likely that another President would win a third term unless there was some kind of crisis, or if that President enjoyed an extraordinary level of popularity. California has no limit on the service of its governor, but only one, the immensely popular Earl Warren, ever was chosen for a third term, in 1950.

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Repeal of the 22nd Amendment clearly is in the national interest. The nation one day may face another crisis and have to sacrifice its most capable leader, and suffer discontinuity in government, if the amendment remains in the Constitution. The sooner the repeal movement starts, the better its chances are likely to be.


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