Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle ended her term the way she first ran for the office—standing up for conservative principles. Two days before leaving, she voted against the fiscal cliff compromise, on the grounds that it did not address the deficit and government over-spending. But she was defeated last November by Dan Maffei, the man she unseated in 2010. On this week's edition of the Campbell Conversations (airing at 6 p.m. on Sundays on WRVO), the now-former Congresswoman reflects back on that race and her career in Congress, and speculates about her possible political future.
Two things struck me about my conversations with her over the past three years. First, whether or not one agrees with her positions, I’ve found her to be one of the most straightforward and plain-spoken candidates/public officials I’ve interviewed. There is nothing stealthy about her conservative views.
Second, in this particular conversation, she proposed an idea to improve Congress that I found interesting, and that many political scientists have suggested over the past two decades—lengthening the term of office for the House. The problem now is that Members of Congress are running for re-election, all the time. And for those in competitive districts, like New York’s 24th, this task can take up an enormous amount of an incumbent's attention. Furthermore, the hyper-focus on raising enough cash cannot be healthy for the democratic system, even if specific votes are not being purchased. This is one point on which she and Dan Maffei can agree--chances are that as of this writing, he's had more fundraisers for 2014 than days in office.
Several years back, Anthony King wrote an interesting book contrasting the experiences of individual national-level legislators running and serving in the U.S., Britain, and Germany—Running Scared: Why America’s Politicians Campaign Too Much and Govern Too Little. It’s still fresh today.
The idea of longer terms is worth serious consideration.