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Voting for the voters: Always best?Posted Friday, January 18, 2008, at 9:16 AM
From a guest column in the T-G last week:
"I am troubled over what a school board member recently told me. I was told that this person votes their conscience, not what constituents want, and if it is wrong then their constituents could vote them out at the next election."
Let's separate the question itself from the specific school issue.
How elected (or appointed) officials should vote in general, on anything, from federal to local levels, is worth discussion.
Should officials ALWAYS, as representatives of the people, back what they want? But what if the voters' desires are just plain wrong -- or if the official knows something popular won't work?
Contrast Bill Clinton's allegedly poll-driven presidency vs. George W. Bush's claim that his reign isn't influenced by polls.
"I really don't care what polls and focus groups say," Bush said a few years ago. "What I care about is doing what I think is right." Whether you agree with him or not, at least he has guts.
If office-holders vote only what constituents want in all cases, no matter what -- and if conscience is eliminated from the decision-making process -- then we may as well eliminate legislative bodies and hold daily or weekly elections via the Internet on every issue.
I'd be the first to agree that someone elected by the people to represent the people should do just that. But, in some cases, it may be necessary to make decisions based on what's best for the people instead of what's demanded by the people.
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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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