For those of you counting down the days until January 20, 2017 (there are 1,444 left, by the way) in the hopes that the country will still be more or less recognizable as a republic, this might seem to be a strange time to bring up the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, but bear with me. The restriction on serving more than two full terms was ratified in 1951, after nearly four years of going through the complex state-by-state ratification process. Prior to that, only Franklin Roosevelt had won a third term (though others had tried), and, of course, he went on to win a fourth as well. For those in favor of term limits, the question is not repealing the 22nd, but spreading it, or something similar, to other offices. But for those opposed to term limits— those who want voters to decide — this could very well be the time to push for repeal.
This subject comes up most frequently when a relatively young person has been elected. The last three men to live in the White House averaged less than 50 years old when first sworn in, and there’s every reason to believe that youth will continue to be served when it comes to choosing our Commander-in-Chief. The problem for the party in office is that a suggestion to repeal looks and feels like (and probably is) a power grab. If, however, a young and popular conservative Republican were to be elected in 2016, we might very well support repeal, or if a major global conflict were ongoing in the future, we might want the kind of continuity the country seemed to prefer during World War II. In any case, history has shown there’s not much stomach for more than two terms, so the likelihood is low. But, under special circumstances or with the right person, why not? Even Ronald Reagan thought the question should be left to the voters rather than to an arbitrary limit.
Most important, the possibility of additional terms would restore accountability to a second-term president. Many of the initiatives now being unleashed upon us might have been avoided if another election loomed. Repeal would take time, and it would likely have no affect on the current occupant of the White House (Truman was exempted from the 22nd), but if Republicans were to champion the cause while they were out of power, it could stand a better chance of passing and might very well accrue to their future benefit. It might even force parties to fight about ideas rather than merely running out the clock.