© 2011 By Bob Litton
May I presume to point out something to the body politic? You demand that your “representative” voice and vote the regional interests of his district or you’ll “vote him out”, while at the same time you complain that he doesn’t have the gumption to “bite the bullet” on difficult issues because “all he’s interested in is being re-elected.”
Doesn’t this strike you as somewhat a situation of “double-think”?
I can understand, but still do not much respect, representatives who send out questionnaires to their constituency, tabulate the responses and then vote according to the majority opinion of those who filled out the questionnaire. Yes, that’s “voting your constituency”, all right, or at least the part of it which has enough interest or anger to fill out a questionnaire.
I never fill them out myself. The questions are always phrased in such a way as to anticipate short answers where only longer answers are sensible. Also, they often put the respondent into a situation of “either/or”. Too many issues decided by our legislatures have more than two alternatives and, even when there are only two, the value of one choice over another depends on some factor being left out of the question.
Certainly it is proper for a legislator to feel out his constituency. I submit, however, that the purpose of such feeling out is not to have a majority of the constituents do his job for him but rather to see if they have any insights or possible solutions which he and his colleagues have not even thought of yet. This warrants a few phone calls or even a visit home, not a questionnaire.
When a man or woman runs for office, especially for the first time, ideally their primary message to the people should be: “Here is my general philosophy. This is the kind of person I am. Any decisions I make on specific issues are going to be decided on the basis of the personal principles I am espousing to you. The part I take in any particular issue is going to be guided by how it will benefit the larger group, not the smaller group. If that is the kind of person you want in office, then vote for me. If not, then vote for the other guy.”
Of course, in the real world that’s not how it works. But then, the real world is also in a mess.
— The Monahans News, January 27, 1983