Various efforts to alter the effects of the two-term limitation have been undertaken across the years. Supporters of President Richard M. Nixon, for example, floated in 1972 a trial balloon to promote the idea of a single six-year term. That proposal would have enabled Nixon to serve a third term as president. In 1986, friends and supporters of President Ronald Reagan pushed for a repeal of the 22nd Amendment, a proposal that represented an effort to prolong Reagan’s tenure in office and to exploit his highly successful fundraising skills, as well as promoting patronage and appointments to office. Of course the cause to promote both Nixon and Reagan were undermined by Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair respectively. It is likely that similar efforts to repeal the 22nd Amendment will be advanced in the coming decades as partisans seek to preserve and promote their hold on political power.
Opponents of the 22nd Amendment have asserted a familiar argument in their effort to repeal the two-term limitation: Americans’ right to select their president has been unnecessarily limited. They should have the freedom, it is argued, of supporting a candidate of their choice. Some have argued, in particular, that a crisis might create challenges that can be addressed or resolved by only a few people who, under the 22nd Amendment, might be ineligible to serve. As for the argument that longevity in office invites abuse of power and corruption, proponents of repeal like to point out that FDR’s long tenure affirms the fact that some can serve in office for several years without being corrupted by the tendencies and temptations of power. Constitutional safeguards in the form of checks and balances, as well as the Bill of Rights, protect the name from the abuse of power. They argue as well, that the amendment has weakened the president by effectively rendering him a lame duck executive the day after his election to a second term.
Proponents of repeal are up against strong arguments for, and the experience under, the 22nd Amendment. In 1947, members of Congress could point to various nations as examples in which longevity in office had encouraged concentration of power in the executive. Fascism has been the scourge of the world before and during WWII, and some remained in power. They represented an existential threat to America’s constitutional democracy. In the years since the passage and ratification of the amendment, America has experienced its own very serious abuses of power in the Oval Office, including the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals that warranted, in the eyes of many, the awesome option of impeachment. Most Americans have come to agree, in the face of world history and executive behavior, that eight years in office are more than enough. Various presidents, including Andrew Jackson and John F. Kennedy, and many prominent scholars, have asserted their views that rotation in office is consistent with republican virtues. Some defenders of the amendment see, for example, an unhealthy assertion of one person’s views and values in the area of appointments to office, leadership of a political party, and the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary as a whole. Finally, defenders of the term limit like to remind people that no one is indispensable, and that in a nation of 300 million people surely there are several qualified citizens able to assume the duties and responsibilities of the presidency.