Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If voting on the floor of the House could change anything, they'd make it illegal

One of the local candidates for my state legislature has as his platform a pledge to poll his constituents before any major vote and vote the way they instruct him to.

Go back and read that first sentence again.  I'd like to call your attention to my very deliberate choice of "as his platform," and not "as part of his platform."  I've talked to this candidate, I've been to his website, I've been to his Facebook group, and the entirety of his platform is his pledge to poll his constituents and vote the way they instruct him to.

I was ranting about this ("What kind of fools does he take us for? . . . But so many people will fall for this! . . . etc."), when my daughter asked "What's so wrong with that?"  After discussing the matter with her, I thought I'd share my thoughts with all of you, in case a candidate in your area tries to pull this kind of thing on you.

What's wrong with having a representative (let's call him "Bob") whose only function is to vote however his constituents direct him to?  Well, f you look at the process of how a bill becomes a law, you can see that there are a lot of steps that a bill has to go through before you get to the main floor vote and Bob polls his constituents.  First the bill has to be written - which nowadays often comes in the form of special interest groups presenting representatives with prewritten legislation.  Then it has to go to committee - during which process it's usually extensively rewritten and amended.  Then it comes out for debate on the floor - during which process it's usually extensively rewritten and amended.  Then is goes for a final vote - if and only if the party with a majority wants the bill to pass and thinks that they have enough vote to do so.  So you see that even if Bob's constituents instruct him to vote against what his party wants on the final vote, he's still had plenty of opportunities to shape the legislation the way his party wants.

"But," I hear you say, "his party still needs his vote on the final floor vote to pass the bill."  Not necessarily.  They'd like to have his vote, I'm sure.  But since he's running against a long-time incumbent from the other party, it's not like they'd be losing anything if his constituents instruct him to vote against his party, and in the meantime, he's had plenty of opportunities to do damage work for his party in the legislature.  They're willing to sacrifice this one floor vote which they weren't getting anyway to unseat an incumbent and get one of their own in to work behind the scenes, and are probably counting on voter apathy and the power of incumbency to hold onto the seat and eventually let Bob start voting however he pleases (or, more to the point, however the party leadership pleases).

Also, go back and read the first sentence of this post again.  Look particularly for the word between "any" and "vote."  Guess who gets to decide if a vote is "major" enough for the constituents to be polled.  If you guessed "Bob," give yourself a gold star.  Any sucker want to take the bet that as the term goes on, the number of "major" votes goes way down?  No, I didn't think so.

So that's why I won't be voting for Bob, and why I hope that if there's a Bob running in your district, you'll vote against them.

No comments:

Post a Comment