In 1947, the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress. Most view the amendment as a reaction to the unprecedented four presidential elections won by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And for the most part, that is an accurate assessment.
Nevertheless, from the early days of the Republic, the framers discussed, considered, and debated a term limit on the Presidency. It is widely considered George Washington’s refusal to run for a third term that effectively muted the debate for more than 150 years. Upon the death of FDR, who served 12 years and 39 days (passing away short of the 16 years to which he was elected) greater attention was paid to the concept of limiting the time that a president may serve. On Feb. 27, 1951, 36 states voted to ratify the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, thereby setting a term limit for election and overall time of service to the office of President of the United States.
Over the subsequent 65 years, we have witnessed the transition of our entire Republic from the industrial to the information age. That change has impacted all areas of our existence – from the occupational, to the cultural and indeed the political. Fast-forward to politics in the age of Facebook, Twitter and 24-7-365 news cycles.
We now approach politics as a constant, never-ending process that affords no rest from the campaign-mode of operation. As a result, no sooner is someone elected to office than they are faced with the daunting challenges of fundraising for their next election (often before they are even installed in office), fending off potential future primary opponents, and considering how to ensure success in their next election. This all happens against the backdrop of having to legislate in a divided government. The tasks at hand for the newly elected can appear at times impossible.
For the presidency, this phenomenon is amplified to the highest degree. A campaign for president now unfolds unofficially almost from the very moment the current election is concluded. No sooner than Nov. 9 arrives and cable news, Twitter, blogs, and media outlets all over the world will begin the process of suggesting, evaluating, comparing and contrasting the candidates who will potentially challenge the day-old president-elect. Within that reality, it can be widely predicted that the term of the newly elected president will unfold along a typical rough timeline.