The Case Against Seniority

This is the second in a three part series on controlling the power of our representatives.  The first in the series was on term limits.

I have been putting this post off, because I haven’t really had the time to do the research that I need to write it. But putting it off isn’t providing me with the time to do the research. So, please understand that most of what I present here, is based on opinion and assumptions.

One of the main arguments that I have heard in favor of term limits is that it will remove the strength that is placed on seniority.  As it stands, the longer a Senator or Representative serves they are often granted more power and position of influence.

Why are senior congressmen given more power?

From my study of the constitution, I find no constitutional authority for senior congressmen to have more power or influence than junior congressman.  A quick look at wikipedia explains that “There is no mandated difference in rights or power, although Senate rules give more power to senators with more seniority. Generally, senior senators will have more power, though being a member of the majority party is more advantageous than being senior.”  So, seniority is only a rule of the Senate, it is not constitutional.

Where did the concept of seniority start?

This is one area, where my research is lacking, but I have some experience with hiring practices related to seniority. I currently work for a company that has a large number of unionized workers.  Seniority is big deal for the union workers.  The longer you have been with the union, you are more likely to get better pay and better work.

So, this makes me think that the concept of seniority has it roots in unions.  Further, when you look at the history of unions, they have been known to be tied to communism.  So, I don’t think it is inappropriate to say that seniority has it roots in communism.  Perhaps, that is too bold, and I would welcome criticisms of this argument.  But I use this argument to claim that seniority is backwards thinking and it needs to be changed.

What would be a better system?

At my place of employment, if you are not a union employee, things aren’t done based on your seniority.  Rather, it is based on need.  I worked on the grave yard shift for four and a half years, because they needed me on the shift.  There were several people who were just as capable to do the job, but the management wanted me to work the shift.  At the time, I wish that seniority worked for me.

However, now that I am off of the shift, and can see things through different eyes, I realize that seniority isn’t always the best way to work things.  Just because someone has worked longer for you doesn’t make them the best person for advancement.  Yes, they may have more experience, but they could still be the worst person for the job.

If congress were to change the rules to allow any member of congress to hold important positions based on previous work experience and competence to perform the duties, imagine how things would change.  We would be placing people in positions of congressional leadership just because they are old.  Rather we would put them there because of their ability to perform.

In the first part of this series, I discussed how Glenn Beck says we should vote for people who are strong on term limits.  I would argue that a better measure of a good candidate would be is he strong on removing the rules of seniority in the congress.

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2 comments to The Case Against Seniority

  • A Congress of career politicians will NEVER allow us to constitutionally term limit them by an amendment. But we can IMPOSE term limits on them by taking these steps in the coming Congressional elections (‘2010, 2012, 2014):

    1. Don’t reelect your Congressman or Senator.
    2. Always vote, but only for the strongest challenger ,regardless of party .
    3. If your incumbent runs unopposed, vote for his strongest challenger, regardless of party.

    If Congress has not passed a term limits bill by 2014, repeat this in 2016, 2018.

    Our only intelligent choice is to NEVER REELECT any of them!

    The only infallible, unstoppable, guaranteed way to get a truly new Congress, AND a new politics, is NEVER REELECT ANY INCUMBENT! DO IT EVERY ELECTION until term limits is ratified. In other words, don’t let anyone serve more than one term until Congress passes a term limits bill!


    Nelson Lee Walker of

    • Nelson,
      Thanks for giving me more reason NOT to support term limits. I think you have made my point inadvertently better than I could have made it. By saying that we must do all of these things, you are just pointing out how hard it is to add an amendment to the constitution. And you also call for us to get rid of people who would support such a change, simply because they have already served. It is circular thinking at its worst. Sorry, but term limits just won’t work.

      I believe that our founders talked about term limits (I say I believe because I have no facts to support that statement). I believe that they didn’t want term limits because they wanted the peoples voice to be represented. We should keep good representatives in office. We shouldn’t allow one issue to sway our choice.

      Sorry, but I must respectfully disagree with you.

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