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For nearly a century and a half, Americans lived by a powerful tradition in which no President served more than two terms. Then came Franklin Delano Roosevelt, restricted by custom but not by law, who won a third term in 1940 and a fourth in 1944. Believing that the broken norm would be breached again, the Republican-controlled eightieth Congress acted to restore it, passing a constitutional change in 1947 to formalize an absolute limit on presidential tenure. Ratified in 1951, the Twenty-second Amendment created a lame-duck out of every two-term incumbent since Truman and has had an enormous effect on the institution of the Presidency, public policy, and national politics. Critics believe the Amendment diminishes the presidential office; however, Martin B. Gold contends it serves to maintain checks and balances central to the American Constitution while examining Presidents and term limits, from the spirited debates in the Constitution Convention, the role of custom in an unwritten Constitution, and the Twenty-second Amendment itself.
Martin B. Gold is attorney and adjunct faculty of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.More About Martin B. Gold