From the lowly municipal representative to members of the House of Representatives to the two halves of Congress, there seems to be a misconception. It's one that is screamed from most major media outlets. One that most people, on reflex, would rush to defend. That misconception is that elected officials in government, specifically congressman, are ethically and morally obligated to vote the way their constituency wants them to vote.
From the lowly municipal representative to members of the House of Representatives to the two halves of Congress, there seems to be a misconception. It's one that is screamed from most major media outlets. One that most people, on reflex, would rush to defend.
That misconception is that elected officials in government, specifically congressman, are ethically and morally obligated to vote the way their constituency wants them to vote.
Lean in and listen closely. I'm about to blow your mind.
That is simply not true.
Now, before the torches and pitchforks are hefted and an angry populace forces me to flee through the countryside as a pariah, I'd like to explain why I think elected officials don't have an obligation to follow whatever you say.
Take a welder. This person knows welding in and out; he's certified, knows his craft and can use months of experience to determine how to best perform his job. Now take that welder, put him in the same situation, except now there is a group of a hundred to a thousand people voting on where he should put a weld, or how long to burn a torch, or debate the merits of arc welding to acetylene torches. What's worse, these people can decide to fire you for any reason they can think of, as long as they can come to an agreement between themselves.
Sure, some of the mob presented here are welders. There are also teachers, cops, convenience store workers, college students, academics, the unemployed, etc.
The mob here is polled, and 75 percent of them think that the initial assessment of the welder to the task at hand is wrong. The welder is pretty sure that his experience, training and insight have led him to the right choice, but the mob look like they're going to fire him for going against their wishes.
(In case I've lost you, an elected representative is the welder, and YOU are the mob. No one knows where his helper is, probably somewhere goofing off.)
Every election, we make a choice to send someone to City Hall, or to the State House or to Washington, D.C. You vote for someone who will represent you and your interests in government.
The problem, of course, is this requires a certain amount of trust. You have to trust that whoever gets put in office will do his very best, and will make decisions that are in line with what you want.
Americans are not in a trusting mood.
Representatives have a duty to be as informed about a particular subject as they can be. They can afford to spend days on a subject, learning the ins and outs of a law, a situation, a diplomatic overture. This is what they are hired for.
Not to be a voice, but to be an advocate.
Not to blindly follow the mob's whims, but to take a position that is informed by all the available evidence.
People today aren't uneducated; by and large, most people can read, are well informed enough about topics they care about, and are about as involved as someone with a full time job, children, school, a family and a social life can be.
The people we elect to positions of power, their very occupation is the just exercise of that power. They are as involved as someone whose full time job is to be informed and to make decisions on that information.
Before going to bash on someone elected to a position of power because of a decision that you didn't agree with, ask yourself a simple question: Do I have all the information?
It's likely that the person elected to office has more information, if not the whole story.
P.S.: This cuts both ways, politicians. Too many of you value your jobs so much that you'll vote one way just to keep the populace happy. Vote the right way, the informed way, the way of the conscience.
David Ryan Palmer is a writer and reporter at the Southwest Daily News in Sulphur, La. He tried very hard to not crack a joke during this article. Contact him at email@example.com.