Across the land, the cry is heard: Throw the bums out! The people are prepared to do exactly that on Tuesday, but there's a catch. There's little to stop today's insurgent from becoming tomorrow's bum.
Or, as a pessimist once said, many reformers take office to do good and stay to do well.
Take heart, optimists, for there is an antidote to the corrupting disease of permanent poweritis. Term limits. They are a blunt instrument and they work.
They do it by forcing the turnover that the power of incumbency too often thwarts. By using gerrymandering, earmarks, favors for contributors and election laws to thwart challengers, too many incumbents get comfortable in office and make keeping it their mission.
Public service then become private service, which helps to explain how so many lifetime pols leave office filthy rich -- emphasis on filthy.
Power corrupts, so prevention is the best medicine.
Presidents are limited to two terms by the Constituion's 22nd Amendment, passed in 1951, to stop another FDR, who shattered the tradition of two terms by winning four.
Legal limits are popular in the states -- about 35 have restrictions on governors and 15 have them on lawmakers. But members of Congress are free to serve as long as voters let them. That's because the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot set limits for federal officers, meaning Congress would have to do it itself.
That's not going to happen without overwhelming public demand and persistence. The 1994 Republican takeover of Congress included a pledge on term limits, but various bills all failed to get the required two-thirds majority.
But now, with the spirit of revolution sweeping America, the time and mood are right for congressional limits. The idea was popular among many of the Founders, and it is returning as part of the public revolt against the growth and cost of government.
A recent Fox News poll found that 78 percent of Americans want term limits for Congress. Support was dramatic across the spectrum, with 84 percent of Republicans, and 74 percent of both Democrats and independents in favor.
New York City voters are in a position to help lead the movement. A ballot question on Tuesday gives voters the chance to limit elected city officials to two consecutive four-year terms.
That was the rule until last year, when Mayor Bloomberg convinced a pliant and greedy City Council to add a third term to the limits. Public anger over the end run around the referendums that established the limits did not stop Bloomberg's re-election, and most council members also survived the backlash.
But the issue is back again, and Bloomberg promises he will vote for it. The only rub is that the change would allow anyone already in office to run for a third term.
That's a small price to pay for this important measure, which is on the back of the ballot. It's worth the effort to find it and vote "yes."
Who knows? This could be the first shot heard round the nation and start a new push to prevent today's reformers from becoming tomorrow's bums.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column, click here.