When Politicians Get Confused about Their Role

Marilyn Freedman
4 min readFeb 19, 2021
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The Washington County, Pennsylvania, Republican chair is confused. He rebuked Senator Pat Toomey with the words, “We did not send him there to vote his conscience . . . We sent him there to represent us.” (reported in Greg Sargent, “Opinion: Ugly New Attacks on Republicans Who Defied Trump Hint at A Dark GOP Future,” The Washington Post, February 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/16/david-ball-toomey-pennsylvania-gop/.”

Washington County, PA, GOP chairman says “we did not send him [Toomey] there to vote his conscience.”
From Twitter February 16, 2021

Pat Toomey, the Senator from Pennsylvania, who voted to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection on January 6, 2021, explained that his conscience drove his vote.

Senator Toomey is not confused. He knows he is in Congress to represent all the people of Pennsylvania, not just Washington County Republicans. The majority of voters in Pennsylvania voted for Biden. It follows that they would not be happy about a two-month campaign to overturn the election results and that ended in inciting insurrection.

Let’s not confuse Washington County voters with the Washington County Republican committee. Did the Washington County GOP Chairperson poll all voters in his county about whether they wanted to rebuke their Senator? Did he learn that the majority favored a rebuke? It is unlikely that he asked anyone beyond, possibly, his fellow committee members.

Once elected, any senator is in Congress to represent the interests and needs of their state, not just the Republican party. Not just Republican voters. The entire state, even those who voted for a Democratic candidate. Nearly every far-right conservative member of Congress is confused on this point. It’s possible that every far-right conservative voter is confused on this point. And it’s a dangerous confusion.

Trump left us with a lot of problems and messes, but this confusion is insidious and might be the worst. His rhetoric divided the country into Blue States and Red States more thoroughly than the media did during the preceding 20 years. He said that providing federal coronavirus support to Blue States — those with Democratic state governments — was unfair to Republican states because of differences in state debt. How much debt per capita a state has is irrelevant. Whether one or another political party holds all branches of government in a state is irrelevant. What presidential candidate a state voted for is irrelevant. Once the election is over, the people holding office are charged with serving the needs of their state and the entire country, not just their political or ideological constituents.

Don’t let the focus on far-right conservatives, Trump Republicans, liberals and progressives mask this more fundamental issue. If we don’t work hard to reverse this confusion, it will pit neighbors and neighborhoods against each other. It is a future beyond dystopian.

Who will be in charge in your neighborhood? Your street? The family with the most handguns? And how will they protect you from the next neighborhood armed with assault rifles? This nightmare makes feudalism look good.

Let’s take a step back from this path into chaos. Political parties started out as groups of men (yes, literally white privileged men, but we need to start where we started), rallying around their philosophies about how to govern. They devolved into vehicles for men like Boss Tweed (a Democrat — everyone gets their day) to become wealthy and wield power. They evolved into today’s organizations that pander to lobbyists, corporate interests, and wealthy donors. And they are organizations seriously confused about their role in American government and life.

In the process, we the people lose.

Never forget that once in office, a senator’s or representative’s constituents are all the people in their state, not just those who voted for them. The same is true for any elected official from towns and cities to the national level.

If you want to change the course we’re on, start by taking power back from your Republican or Democratic Committee. This goes beyond voting. Communicate directly with your local, state, and national legislators. It’s easy to send emails that express your opinion about the issues they are voting on. Regain your political power. The future is bound to be better if you do.

A plug for Causes: Causes.com is a great place to participate in government and politics. It informs members of political issues, legislation, bills, executive orders, and so on. It enables people to comment on these issues and sends those comments to their members of Congress automatically if they wish. It’s not an echo chamber. Everyone gets to see what anyone thinks. There’s no personal trolling either.

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Marilyn Freedman

Editor and writer, companion to a rescue dog and cat, commentator, witness, advocate, nature lover, good neighbor, and human being. Currently playing Destiny 2.