Monday, March 05, 2018

Who Does a Representative Government Actually Represent?

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump loudly insisted he would "drain the swamp." In this, the second year of his administration, he has not only failed to drain the swamp, but made it even deeper and more ... swampy ... and his failure has raised serious questions about how we deal with a lot of issues in our government. Packing the administration with cabinet secretaries who are known opponents of the organizations they now head is one example. Nepotism - the employment of family members in positions of trust and authority - is another. But one of the most critical issues, in my opinion, is one of the least recognized - who does our government represent?

We are taught that we live in a representative democracy in which we elect a president to guide the nation in accordance with the will of the citizens and be our face to the world, and we elect our lawmakers to represent our interests in the crafting of the laws under which we live. But who do the president and those lawmakers actually represent?

It's abundantly clear that Donald Trump does not believe he is the president of all Americans ... only those who show up at his rallies and cheer wildly at everything he says, no matter how inane. He has been in office more than a year, but has not made the least effort to reach out and understand the concerns of people who don't wear red "Make America Great Again" hats and chant mindless bumper sticker slogans like "lock her up!", "drain the swamp," and "build the wall!"

And who do our senators and representatives represent? If your answer is "you and I," then you may want to take another puff on that joint. Our elected officials represent those whose financial support put them into power and keeps them there. If you think that you, with a family budget that doesn't allow for six-figure campaign donations, will get the same attention to your issues as a constituent who can contribute millions, you need to think again.

The Supreme Court has equated campaign donations with politically protected speech* and corporations with individuals**, which means that your freedom of speech - exercised by writing letters and sending e-mails to your representatives and attending their "constituent listening sessions***" - can be legally buried under the enormous financial weight given to the wealthy and to big business by virtue of their free speech exercised by the writing of checks and the hidden machinations of Super PACs and various tax-exempt support structures.

Therefore never send to know for whom the elected official votes, he almost certainly votes not for thee.

Have a good day. Keep an eye on your elected reprehensives ... they don't listen to you unless you're a major campaign contributor, but you still need to watch them closely, if only to protect yourself against what's coming.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Buckley v Valeo (424 U.S. 1, January 30, 1976).

** Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (558 U.S. 310, January 21, 2010).

*** Often chaired by members of their staffs because they are too busy or scared to attend.

† With apologies to John Donne.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Sadly, it's true about our representatives.

John Hill said...

But as you have said -- It makes no sense.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Our Representatives are bought like sacks of potatoes.

Mike said...

It always drives me nuts to see my representatives (Anne Wagner and Roy Blunt) standing as close to trump as they can get.

Grand Crapaud said...

Unfortunately, financial donations are a particularly loud form of speech.

allenwoodhaven said...

All too true. We need to vote in a whole new breed of politician, ones who can't be bought but will reflect the citizens' priorities. Unfortunately I do not see that happening anytime soon. Perhaps a reaction to the current administration will help. It certainly should!