Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Webfoot Wednesday: The Party Line

Oregon's been in the news the past few days for the extremely unfortunate reason that our 1st District congressman, David Wu, has proven to be a complete and utter fool. Even more pleasant, guess which district I call home?


Why, one might ask, is such an individual elected? And, more to the point, reelected?

In my opinion, the answer has everything to do with the demise of the truly "representative" elected official. As our political parties have become more stringently ideological (contact me for a reading list if you want the historical background), our elected officials have marched ever more in lock-step with the political agenda of the parties and interest affiliations they represent. They fail to respond to the specific needs of their constituents. The result? Party-line voting becomes the only way to express even a modicum of choice as a voter. We can no longer be assured that by "voting for the individual," we will elect a representative who meets our region's needs. We can only choose a party that will more closely align with our perceived interests.

The result? Individuals like Rep. Steve Womack, Republican of Arkansas, who told reporters he'd had constituents calling all day yesterday and advocating tax increases. His response? "This economy is too fragile." The man is from Arkansas. Outside the bounds of the Walton clan I seriously doubt tax increases for the wealthiest Americans will have any impact at all upon Arkansans. Elected because a majority of his constituents believed the Republican Party would more closely align with their perceived interests, the voters of the 3rd District of Arkansas now have a representative who is refusing to represent the will of the people who sent him to Washington and advocate for them. This example comes from the right side of the political aisle, but it is not a problem specific to one party.

The only way to move on from the intransigence of the current political climate -- and the frustration of a situation like the Wu affair -- is to revive the practice of electing officials who will exercise independent political judgement that provides for their constituents' needs.


Amy said...

I think a further problem is that in this age of form letter emails, internet campaigns, and angry blogs posting reps phone and contact info, a congress person's office fields phone calls/emails/letters from people across the nation and in the case of the first two may not know if the person phoning or emailing is even in their district. I recently saw some FB campaign to have people calling Florida about something or other that was viewed as unfair (no clue what, I didn't read it), but it just goes to show that any individual congress person would probably have trouble discerning the exact will of his or her constituents from office correspondence. On top of that, I think very few people actually contact their representatives. I never do.

Laura Gifford said...

You make a good point, Amy -- it's very easy these days for people to react without much effort, and that can definitely obscure the ability to gauge constituent preferences.