Yesterday, North Carolina’s Democrat Governor, one Bev Perdue, made the following joke (at least, she says it was a joke):

“You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It’s a little bit more contentious now but it’s not impossible to try to do what’s right in this state. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

OK, I don’t think the above would be a comedic hit on SNL, nor would it have drawn much laughter had Jay Leno or Jon Stewart said it.

No one is laughing. Conservatives and libertarians are irate, and even lefties like ThinkProgress are not amused:

It’s not hard to sympathize with the sentiment behind Perdue’s remark. Because they have to run for reelection every two years, congressmen remain so fixated on fundraising and campaigning that they forget to be lawmakers and have trouble putting politics aside to focus on compromise and what’s good for the country. However, it’s a dangerous precedent to set to suggest we simply suspend democracy every time unemployment goes above 9 percent.

The serious, responsible way to pursue Perdue’s idea would be through a constitutional amendment.

Gee. It isn’t every day that I see a major leftist site acknowledging that the Constitution means something. (I might say it restored my faith except I haven’t had faith in the left for decades.)

Here’s what the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) has to say on the subject:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

There is of course no provision for suspending elections. While I don’t think the “joke” was funny (and I doubt it was a joke), I share the governor’s concern about not wanting people who worry about the next election. I think that is why Congress is held in such extremely low esteem. (83.3% disapprove.)

I think the founders wanted congressional representatives to ideally be persons of good character (who have consciences and want to do what they consider to be right), and I worry that wanting to be elected to political office creates an inherent conflict of interest rendering it difficult if not impossible to be guided by what is right. Instead, they are guided by the principle of “I will keep my job, by any means necessary.”  Election to Congress is a huge investment; the average cost of a congressional seat in 2008 was $1.1 million.

People do not spend that kind of money to get a job unless they want it for keeps.

All this prattle about how to “get the money out” of elections and politics is silly. There is only one remedy for the situation of government by people who want to get elected, and that is term limits. But it will never happen, for the simple reason that it would destroy gigantic career investments.

The president is limited to two terms, and while it would take a constitutional amendment to limit congress in a similar manner, the general public is overwhelmingly (78%) in favor of congressional term limits.  Politically, that breaks down into 84% of Republicans, 74% of Democrats and independents, i.e. a whopping landslide majority of the voting public. That’s pretty close to the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Congress.

If Congress got behind such an amendment, would their approval ratings improve? Perhaps, but I don’t think the only approval they care about is getting reelected.

So term limits will go nowhere. It is a joke.

(Might as well talk about ending the war on drugs.)