The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Here’s a better approach to electing presidents

Former president Gerald Ford shakes hands with President Jimmy Carter on May 24, 1978, in the White House. (AP)

Matthew Dallek well captured the problems of our “default” aim for presidents to serve two terms in his Sept. 11 Outlook essay, “The unsung virtues of the one-term presidency.” To regain or elevate the standing of one-term presidents, as he wished, there are two things we can do. First would be confronting the two hearts of the problem: Holding elections every four years is too advantageous a schedule to the incumbent, and terms that are equal in length but unequal in contribution serve only calendrical convenience and not good governance.

Second, we could change presidential term lengths to a first term of six years and a second term of three years. (House terms of three years and Senate elections every three years would synchronize for a three-year cycle.) Such a schedule would better reflect presidential terms’ actual value, create a more competitive election for the incumbent, make a second term more optional and provide a brake on the permanent campaign — all while saving billions of dollars by holding 33 percent fewer national elections. Alas, there is that constitutional amendment hurdle.

Rick LaRue, Silver Spring

The writer’s article “Presidential Second Terms Are Not Cursed, But the Timing of Reelection Has Become So” in the peer-reviewed Election Law Journal elaborates on this case.

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