Term Limits by Vince Flynn is a book with an interesting premise that is highly relevant to these chaotic, violent times that we live in: what if a group of commandos decided they had had enough with the broken political process in D.C. and decided to take kinetic action against corrupt politicians? How would the CIA, FBI, media, politicians, and American populace respond? Would those commandos be viewed as heroes, villains, or something in-between?
Term Limits does not advocate for political violence nor does it glorify it. Despite being a political thriller, it confronts those issues in a level-headed and realistic, although also quite entertaining manner.
Furthermore, despite being written in 1997, it is more a book about our times than the tame by comparison 90s. Now, thanks to the radicalism and high tempers on both sides of the isle, political violence is a reality, not just a theoretical.
Because of that heightened relevance, I re-read Term Limits and decided to review it. Political violence, as we all know, is rarely acceptable and is certainly not appropriate for modern America, a nation of laws. But Term Limits shows what could happen if, for some reason, the unconscionable happened and that violence ever occurred. Even more than that, it explores what would be required to pull America back from the brink.
Summary of Term Limits by Vince Flynn
Term Limits was Vince Flynn’s first novel. He wrote and self-published it while a bartended and it was an instant hit. It set the standard for modern political thrillers.
It’s premise is this: a corrupt administration is acting outside the bounds of American law and is doing nothing with its new budget proposal to reign in America’s massive deficit.
All appears to be business as usual until one night, shortly before that budget is set to be passed, three of D.C.’s most corrupt and influential politicians are murdered with surgical precision.
No one else is harmed, but three politicians were murdered. Without them, the budget cannot pass.
Then, a group claiming to be the assassins delivers an ultimatum to the D.C. establishment- either reign in spending, simplify the tax code and welfare system, and establish a plan to balance the budget and pay off the debt, or there will be more violence.
That explosive start sets the tone for the book. Each scene is described in deep detail, drawing the reader into the story and making it believable. The planning and execution of further violence, along with the resulting drama, is described in a way that makes the book utterly terrifying and realistic.
Furthermore, the book isn’t partisan. Flynn could have made it favorable to one side and blame them for all of our problems. Instead, party affiliation is rarely mentioned and is never particularly relevant. The core of the book is about corruption and apathetic, self-serving politicians running our great country into the ground and being punished for doing so. In reality, both sides are to blame. Republicans run up the deficit and sell out to special interests just as much as the Democrats. Flynn shows that in immaculate detail, making the book not just a thriller, but an exploration of the cronyism and pork that goes into policy decisions in Washington.
Term Limits is, at its root, a book about the destruction of America. Generations of politicians on both sides have used their power not to make America a better place, but to solidify their grip on the country. They don’t care about the fact that they’re running it into the ground because that doesn’t affect them in the slightest; they’re enriching themselves at the expense of the country, slaking the thirst of their own egos at the cost of the lives of service members and the fortunes of countless Americans, who they view with disdain.
Term Limits explores all of that. It shines a light on the good and bad present in Congress, the CIA, the FBI, the legislative process, lobbying, and most other aspects of D.C. life. While pulling no punches, Flynn is fair to every side, expressing the outrage and concern of many American civilians while also showing why things are the way they are in Washington.
My Take on Term Limits by Vince Flynn
I think that Term Limits is a book that more Americans should read.
For one, it’s fun to read and might draw more people into reading. Far too many people spend all their free time on social media or Netflix, wasting their time on mindless entertainment and the dopamine hits that come from responses on social media.
But that could be said of most good novels. What separates Term Limits from the rest is how it manages to explore complex issues in a relatable and readable way.
Few people have thought much about how budgets are passed in D.C., much less the long-term consequences of having deficit after deficit. The national debt is skyrocketing and no one seems to care about that continuing problem. Corrupt politicians are destroying our republic, our agencies are out of control, and illegality defines every level of government. Term Limits, with its focus on realism, brings that to light and exposes the reader to the cesspool that is D.C.
Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, Term Limits exposes the consequence of political violence: tyranny. In the book, the administration responds to the murders with heavy-handed force, unconstitutional investigations, and restrictions on civil liberties. Is that all that different from what’s starting to happen now? Thanks to the violence on Capitol Hill, social media censorship and Big Tech tyranny have approached unanticipated heights and free speech is being smothered. And that’s without a gang of assassins terrifying legislators.
Finally, Term Limits is excellent because it’s not just a complaint disguised as a novel. It would have been easy for Flynn to show his contempt for D.C. and “solve” everything by having the assassins be the obvious victors, slaying every dragon that opposes their demands for fiscal responsibility and the end of politics driven by partisanship and special interests. That ending, while satisfying at a primal level, would be unrealistic.
Flynn instead inserts the concept of leadership. The hero of the novel is Michael O’Rourke, a Congressman who is disgusted with the level of corruption he sees in D.C. but who also understands the danger inherent in political violence. Without giving anything away, his leadership and clear-headed responses to tumultuous events is what leads to a path forward, not the bullets of mysterious assassins.
Leadership is what is lacking in Washington, not bloodshed. That lesson is as true now as it is in the novel. We need leaders, not commandos turned assassins. This book is excellent because it puts that pressing need on full display.
I enjoyed reading Term Limits. Flynn’s focus on detail and creating realistic assassinations drew me into the plot and kept me in rapt attention to the book. For that reason alone, I would recommend reading it. It’s a fun read and you won’t regret taking the time to sit down with it.
But that’s not, as you can probably gather, the only reason that I recommend reading it. You, and everyone you know, should read Term Limits because it is a clear-eyed exploration into what is wrong with D.C. and what needs to be done to clean up that corruption and reckless behavior.
We don’t need violence, assassins, or demands backed by threats of bloodshed. Many voices on both sides are calling for that now and are insane for doing so. The French Revolution is a case study as to what happens when executing one’s rivals becomes an accepted facet of political life. As Dickens says in A Tale of Two Cities:
“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seeds of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”
Violence begets more violence. That bloody cycle is never-ending and would prove to be so in America. Do we really want a cycle of riots and mutual reprisals from Antifa and Proud Boys? Hopefully not. That cycle would destroy America and prove irredeemably damaging.
Instead, America needs a leader like O’Rourke. A man (or woman) who can stand up to both the vicious impulses of the mob and the self-serving, corrupt nature of many D.C. politicians and bureaucrats. The American Republic needs a modern Cato; a man of unbending principle who fights corruption, whatever its source, with rhetoric and the legislative process.
That’s the lesson of Term Limits by Vince Flynn and is what makes it special. It’s a book with a message that we all need to hear, especially in these contentious times.
By: Gen Z Conservative