The real problem with Congress is the voters

In case you missed this, the husband of a low-level Arkansas Republican official suggested that our representatives would be more responsive if they knew we could shoot a couple of them. Don’t believe me? Here’s the link to the Huffington Post article.

Now as ridiculous/absurd/frightening as that suggestion is, it’s not the worst thing about the comment. The worst thing is that is clearly demonstrates what’s really wrong with our system these days.

Here’s the key section:

The 2nd amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives. It seems that we are unable to muster that belief in any of our representatives on a state or federal level, but we have to have something, something costly, something that they will fear that we will use if they step out of line.

Out of line? You’ve got to be kidding me.

This guy, and apparently many Americans, think the folks in Congress are supposed to reflect exactly the opinions of the folks who elected them. What, you think that’s right? Not even by a long shot.

Unfortunately, however, it’s become the way our “leaders” lead. They lead by following, by gauging which way the wind is blowing, and then being pushed along in that direction, regardless of what their own brains tell them. (Except on gun control, I guess. Enough money can overcome the tendency, it seems.)

Someone forgot to teach these folks the difference between a democracy and a republic. Most think the United States is a democracy. It’s not. It’s a republic.

If we were a democracy, we’d install voting machines in everyone’s house, and just put every question up for a public vote. Yeah, that’d work.

The way it’s supposed to work is that we elect folks with intelligence and integrity, then send them off to manage the issues. We may like some of their decisions, we may hate some of their decisions, but we don’t try to substitute our own judgment for every single nagging thing they do.

I remember covering a gubernatorial election back in the 70s in South Carolina when I watched a candidate argue with a voter about the death penalty. The voter was for it (as no doubt were most South Carolinians then and now), the candidate wasn’t. In the end, I’m certain the voter supported the candidate because he took the time to rationally explain his opposition. The candidate did win the primary, and would have won the election, but his nomination got waylaid by insider shenanigans that ended up handing the Governor’s Mansion to the first Republican governor of the state since Reconstruction. It’s been pretty much downhill there ever since.

A candidate who will stand up for principles, even if it’s not the majority’s opinion, is the candidate I want.

I recognize that some of the people I vote for are going to make decisions I don’t agree with. I’m OK with that. The decision on whether to elect, re-elect or vote against someone should come down to the answer to the question: “Do I trust their judgment?” If I do, then I’ll vote for them, even if I don’t agree with everything they support — even some big things. (Are you listening, Joe Manchin?)

I’d rather have someone representing me who has a brain, and uses it, rather than some wishy-washy, opinion-taker who only leads by following.

I can’t help but trot this out: Our Presbyterian understanding of representative government — which was the underpinning of the development of the nation’s system as well — is that the electorate does not instruct its representatives how to vote.

We don’t send “delegates” to our governing bodies, we send “commissioners.” There is a distinction — which frankly even a lot of Presbyterians don’t understand.

Here’s the churchy language, from the Book of Order (F-3.0204): “Presbyters [commissioners] are not simply to reflect the will of the people, but rather to seek together to find and represent the will of Christ.”

Without starting an argument on separation of church and state, that same concept is supposed to apply to Congress. (Let’s leave “the will of Christ” as motivation out of it, that’s not the point.)

What that means is that you don’t vote based on what you think the people back home want, you don’t vote based on what you want, you vote based on what you have discerned is for the greater good, or put another way: the right thing to do.

That’s called statesmanship.

You don’t come into the room with your mind made up — or your instructions tucked in your wallet.

You listen to the facts and arguments, and then make a decision.

Instead, today there’s no discerning allowed, only following the latest poll, the latest contribution, the latest noise-maker. (Yes, there are a few exceptions to this overall, but they tend to be the exceptions that prove the rule.)

We are devolving into anarchy, I fear. We have forgotten that we are a nation of laws, where we all give up some rights for the greater good.

It’s getting harder and harder to have confidence that, in the end, “the people” will get it right.

This entry was posted in Politics, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Public Education and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.