George Leef’s latest column for Forbes marks the 20-year anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down federal term limits.

In my view, Justice Clarence Thomas grasped the crucial point, writing “Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each State of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress. The Constitution is simply silent on this question. And where the Constitution is silent, it raises no bar to action by the State or the people.”

That, however, was in dissent. Justice Stevens’ convoluted, pro-status quo opinion carried the day, much like his convoluted, pro-status quo opinion in the eminent domain case Kelo v. New London would ten years later.

Nevertheless, the Court has spoken and the only certain means of dismantling its roadblock against federal term limits is to amend the Constitution.

According to polling, a remarkably large majority of the American public would like to see term limits. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 75 percent of voters were in favor of having term limits for members of Congress, with only 21 percent opposed and 5 percent registering no opinion. Support was somewhat higher among Republicans and independents, but 65 percent of Democrats surveyed were in favor.

You might think that in a democracy, when such a high percentage of the people want a change in the law, it would be fairly easy to bring it about. But that is not the case. As we learn from the branch of economics known as Public Choice theory, elected officials have their own set of preferences that frequently are out of alignment with those of the people they supposedly represent.

When it comes to staying in office, that misalignment is especially severe. While the voters might think it best if the members of Congress had to rotate back into ordinary life after two or three terms, most members don’t want to leave once they’ve gotten the taste of Washington’s power and perks.