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A Congressperson's duty: is it primarily to...

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  • A Congressperson's duty: is it primarily to...

    • their voters
    • their state
    • their country
    This is a legitimate question, and I don't think there's an easy answer. Obviously, a Representative or Senator has a duty to all three, but the question I'm asking is to which of these is their greatest duty.

    If it's to the voters, then the politician should primarily speak/act in accordance with what the voters want, or what's best for them (within reason). This would mean opting for something the voters want over what the politician thinks is best for the other two choices.

    If it's to the state, then ditto the state.

    If it's to the nation, then ditto the nation.

    Serious / constructive replies only, please.

  • #2
    I suppose I could add duty to "their party" to the list, but I'm positive no one would choose/agree with it; a politician's duty is not primarily to their party.

    Comment


    • #3
      That's a tough one. For me it is between the first and last ones with the middle (state) following distantly behind.

      Interestingly, prior to the 17th Amendment a Senator was supposed to be pretty much beholden to his state.

      I'm always still in trouble again

      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Whateverman View Post
        • their voters
        • their state
        • their country
        This is a legitimate question, and I don't think there's an easy answer. Obviously, a Representative or Senator has a duty to all three, but the question I'm asking is to which of these is their greatest duty.

        If it's to the voters, then the politician should primarily speak/act in accordance with what the voters want, or what's best for them (within reason). This would mean opting for something the voters want over what the politician thinks is best for the other two choices.

        If it's to the state, then ditto the state.

        If it's to the nation, then ditto the nation.

        Serious / constructive replies only, please.
        Depends on which house we are talking about:

        Senate:
        State. The senator's purpose is to represent their state in congress. The senate is supposed to be the state's voices, not the people's.

        House:
        The people of their district (depends on the definition of "their voters"). The house is designed to represent the will of the people, and this is done through the fact that seats are designed to represent "smaller" chunks of people.

        In an ideal world, the will of the states and the will of the people should come together and ideally create what's good for the country.

        Comment


        • #5
          Politician: "I did what I thought was best."

          Voters: "We didn't elect you to do what you thought was best, we elected you to do what we thought was best!"
          Last edited by Mountain Man; 10-20-2020, 01:41 PM.
          Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
          But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
          Than a fool in the eyes of God


          From "Fools Gold" by Petra

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
            That's a tough one. For me it is between the first and last ones with the middle (state) following distantly behind.

            Interestingly, prior to the 17th Amendment a Senator was supposed to be pretty much beholden to his state.
            It *is* a tough question, yes.

            I would answer my own question like this: a congressperson's duty is primarily to the people/entity they were elected to represent. For a member of the House of Representatives, that translates to a duty to people/voters. For a member of the Senate, that translates to a duty to the state.

            A good politician (of either of these types) should avoid duty to one causing problems with the others. For example, a duty to the state shouldn't come at the expense of the voters, or a duty to the voters shouldn't come at the expense of the country, etc.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by CivilDiscourse View Post
              Depends on which house we are talking about:

              Senate:
              State. The senator's purpose is to represent their state in congress. The senate is supposed to be the state's voices, not the people's.

              House:
              The people of their district (depends on the definition of "their voters"). The house is designed to represent the will of the people, and this is done through the fact that seats are designed to represent "smaller" chunks of people.

              In an ideal world, the will of the states and the will of the people should come together and ideally create what's good for the country.
              Yup, I agree.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Whateverman View Post

                It *is* a tough question, yes.

                I would answer my own question like this: a congressperson's duty is primarily to the people/entity they were elected to represent. For a member of the House of Representatives, that translates to a duty to people/voters. For a member of the Senate, that translates to a duty to the state.

                A good politician (of either of these types) should avoid duty to one causing problems with the others. For example, a duty to the state shouldn't come at the expense of the voters, or a duty to the voters shouldn't come at the expense of the country, etc.
                The second paragraph is the problem. Conflict will arise between them like it or not.

                So do you hold to a hard and fast principle or do you approach each case separately based on its own merits. While initially I tend toward the latter I realize how quickly this method can go astray.

                I'm always still in trouble again

                "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                Comment


                • #9
                  I would say that the US congress members have the obligation to the Constitution. This would balance out all three of the options you listed.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                    Originally posted by Whateverman View Post

                    It *is* a tough question, yes.

                    I would answer my own question like this: a congressperson's duty is primarily to the people/entity they were elected to represent. For a member of the House of Representatives, that translates to a duty to people/voters. For a member of the Senate, that translates to a duty to the state.

                    A good politician (of either of these types) should avoid duty to one causing problems with the others. For example, a duty to the state shouldn't come at the expense of the voters, or a duty to the voters shouldn't come at the expense of the country, etc.
                    The second paragraph is the problem. Conflict will arise between them like it or not.

                    So do you hold to a hard and fast principle or do you approach each case separately based on its own merits. While initially I tend toward the latter I realize how quickly this method can go astray.
                    The principle is solid (for me); Reps are beholden to their voters, and Senators to their states.

                    Where the case-by-case determination comes in - is when there's a conflict. For a Senator, that conflict might take the form of voting some for that would aid his/her state, but that is very unpopular with that state's voters. How that conflict should be resolved depends on many things, such as the nature of the thing being voted on, the reason for its voter unpopularity, whether the Senator is up for re-election, etc...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Whateverman View Post
                      their voters
                      Do you mean (a) the people who cast a vote for them, or (b) all the people in their congressional district (or eligible voters in their district)?

                      Because I think there's an additional complexity here around trying to representing your own voting bloc and promote their interests which they elected you to do, versus representing all the people in the district that your are elected in.

                      How people perceive that trade off can vary. To pick an obvious example, although in the context of the Presidency, Trump's rhetoric has made it clear at times that he sees himself as the President of MAGA voters and thinks the Blue states can burn cos they didn't vote for him. Whereas other politicians can go out of the way to be clear that they intend to govern for all the people of their district, regardless of whether those people voted for them or not.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                        Do you mean (a) the people who cast a vote for them, or (b) all the people in their congressional district (or eligible voters in their district)?

                        Because I think there's an additional complexity here around trying to representing your own voting bloc and promote their interests which they elected you to do, versus representing all the people in the district that your are elected in.

                        How people perceive that trade off can vary. To pick an obvious example, although in the context of the Presidency, Trump's rhetoric has made it clear at times that he sees himself as the President of MAGA voters and thinks the Blue states can burn cos they didn't vote for him. Whereas other politicians can go out of the way to be clear that they intend to govern for all the people of their district, regardless of whether those people voted for them or not.
                        This is a good-and-valid question. I deliberately left it vague, as I can see that either option working: the politician being beholden either to only the people who voted for him/her, or being beholden to all the voters in the district,

                        ---

                        On a related subject, the nature of this US democracy has been on my mind for a while. I've noted the slavish congressional support of our current president, and wondered many times whether it's appropriate or not. The question here is designed to poke at the phenomenon a bit; if a Representative is primarily beholden to his/her voters, then maybe supporting the president (because that's what his/her constituents want) is appropriate. Maybe it's good/right for a member of the House of Representatives to support a lying/dishonest incompetent fool. I personally don't like that idea, but there it is anyway.

                        A Senator? I would say it's less appropriate.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Whateverman View Post

                          This is a good-and-valid question. I deliberately left it vague, as I can see that either option working: the politician being beholden either to only the people who voted for him/her, or being beholden to all the voters in the district,

                          ---

                          On a related subject, the nature of this US democracy has been on my mind for a while. I've noted the slavish congressional support of our current president, and wondered many times whether it's appropriate or not. The question here is designed to poke at the phenomenon a bit; if a Representative is primarily beholden to his/her voters, then maybe supporting the president (because that's what his/her constituents want) is appropriate. Maybe it's good/right for a member of the House of Representatives to support a lying/dishonest incompetent fool. I personally don't like that idea, but there it is anyway.

                          A Senator? I would say it's less appropriate.
                          There are times I think that the 17th amendment screwed up the senate and it's purpose, turning it into a "super House of reps" as opposed to "voice of the states". By forcing the senate to stand for election it shifted the focus of senators from the state to the voters who are going to keep them in office. Similar to judges who you don't want ruling based on what will appeal to their voters, it creates a conflict of interest when they have to weigh their own self interest in getting re-elected against what might be better for their state.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Whateverman View Post
                            • their voters
                            • their state
                            • their country
                            This is a legitimate question, and I don't think there's an easy answer. Obviously, a Representative or Senator has a duty to all three, but the question I'm asking is to which of these is their greatest duty.

                            If it's to the voters, then the politician should primarily speak/act in accordance with what the voters want, or what's best for them (within reason). This would mean opting for something the voters want over what the politician thinks is best for the other two choices.

                            If it's to the state, then ditto the state.

                            If it's to the nation, then ditto the nation.

                            Serious / constructive replies only, please.
                            Excellent question. I see you also added "party" later. IMO ...

                            Representative: 1 voters, 2 state, 3 country, 4 party
                            Senator: 1 state, 2 country, 3 party, 4 voters

                            A senator is a bit like a SCOTUS judge, insulated from short-term voter whims, and is why their terms are longer than reps.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ronson View Post

                              Excellent question. I see you also added "party" later. IMO ...

                              Representative: 1 voters, 2 state, 3 country, 4 party
                              Senator: 1 state, 2 country, 3 party, 4 voters

                              A senator is a bit like a SCOTUS judge, insulated from short-term voter whims, and is why their terms are longer than reps.
                              Why do you think a Senator is more beholden to their party than their constituents (aka. voters)?

                              I'm honestly surprised that anyone wouldn't put party at the last of both lists...

                              Comment

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