Party Lines

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A friend of mine said he thought a representative should vote the way his constituents want, thinking that many Senators are not doing their job by voting against health insurance reform that their constituents don't want.

To me, however, this is not the republican form of government our founders instituted. Edmund Burke said in 1774, in one of my favorite quotes, "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."

I've always loved that quote, but in the case of health insurance reform, I think the context immediately preceding that quote is even more relevant: "... his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable."

When a legislator is bought off, or when he otherwise allows himself to be swayed for the good of the party or some other thing besides the legislation at hand, he is doing something worse than going against the will of his constituents: he is going against his own judgment, abusing a sacred trust.

I do not respect representatives who vote on legislation on a basis other than their own views of whether that legislation should or should not be law. That's their job, that's the power they've been entrusted with. But that's not how the parties expect representatives to act: they expect them to tow the party line, and at the very least, be willing to be bought off.

I understand this to some degree: parties exist to get agendas implemented. If you're a member of the party, you're expressing agreement with a significant portion of that agenda. But that is short-sighted. A strong party, long term, will nurture not fealty to specific (and ever-changing) agendas and compliance with leadership, but, rather, consistent application of the principles that support that agenda.

When you do that, you might lose some bills, but you get something much more valuable: a party comprised of representaives that the public trusts to follow their established principles and vote their conscience.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on January 18, 2010 9:55 PM.

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