A government of laws and not of men

By Becky Wandel

Marc Nozell/Flickr
Marc Nozell/Flickr

Barack Obama was sworn in as President when I was in sixth grade. Now, as a sophomore in college, I will watch him end his eight-year residency at the White House in just a few months. In many ways, he has been my only president, since politics did not mean much to me in my pre-adolescence, and I’ve grown rather attached to the man. I would truly prefer him as president to almost anyone else but, even in my weakest moments, I would never wish for his third term.

Presidential term limits weren’t made law until the 22nd amendment was ratified in 1951, four years after it was passed in congress. It is no coincidence that this amendment was proposed immediately following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt – the only president ever to be elected to more than two terms. Americans were quick to realize post-Roosevelt that presidencies lasting 12 or 16 years were antithetical to our nation’s anti-authoritarian roots.

I believe that term limits are the best way to protect these roots, for they ensure that the power of the president is always temporary and therefore has little chance to become absolute. To ignore these limits “just this once” in favor of a third Obama term would be equivalent to uprooting the tree just to save one apple. The apple will die soon anyway, just as it was going to, but now the tree is rotten as well.

Another example: voting rights. In recent days, many have poked fun at Donald Trump for blundering and encouraging his supporters to vote for him on November 28, 20 days after the actual election. If you oppose Trump, it is easy to wish that his supporters would actually miss their chance to vote because it would mean he would lose the election and your candidate would win, but this is a dangerous wish to make.

It may seem like a harmless hope that someone you deem as evil or dangerous doesn’t get elected but, at its heart, it is a hope to disenfranchise those you disagree with. If hatred of one man is powerful enough to eclipse a belief that everyone should have a right to vote, we might as well not have that right at all. We must be vigilant against letting any person get under our skin or into our hearts to the point where we would undermine our own deepest-held beliefs.

Many call Donald Trump dangerous, and perhaps he is if he can make sensible people wish to amend the constitution just to avoid him.

In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote in his pamphlet “Common Sense” that “in America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

There ought to be no other, and there will be no other, if we stay steadfast in our principles – on election day and beyond – and ignore the zealots who wax apocalyptic in our ear.

Becky Wandel is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]