Throughout the past year, there has been a great deal of rhetoric over the job description of those elected to the positions of Congressman and Senator. The feeling of alienation that many citizens have with Washington has led to a situation where many of those citizens tell their elected officials that they "work for us".
If that statement is intended to mean that the taxpayers of America fund the government that pays elected officials and the bureaucracies that those officials have created, the statement is true. But if that statement is intended to mean that the duty of elected officials is to "do what their constituents want them to do", that statement is false.
Those who created the structure of government in America were experienced in the workings of political systems. If our system was actually based on the premise that elected officials were to "do what their constituents want them to do", then those who have become the kings and queens of pork barrel spending must be hailed as heroes. Their constituents wanted them to bring home the bacon and they did so.
Indeed, the late Congressman John Murtha proclaimed to the media that if he was a crook, it was because he was bringing money home to his district. And his district responded by re-electing him for decades. The same could be said, without the specific quote, about the late Senator Robert Byrd.
Those running for office, and those elected, are barraged with constituents who all want their piece of the pie. Those constituents may be against government spending when someone else is the target of the proposed thrift, but they don’t expect to be targeted themselves. So if every official works for his constituents, he is caught in the proverbial Catch 22. Supporting any program is not working for those who oppose its existence or funding, and opposing any program is not working for those who support it.
Our Founders understood that this would be how the system might malfunction. So they established a system in which those we elect to public office wear an oath before beginning their service. That oath is not to their constituents. It is to the Constitution.
In other words, every elected official works for the principles that established and undergird the Republic itself. They are sworn to make decisions based, not on the latest poll numbers, but on the words of the bedrock law of this nation. Those decisions may be popular with their constituents, and they may not be popular with their constituents. But each elected official has sworn to use the Constitution as the barometer by which they measure every vote.
They make that measurement in the silence of their consciences. And they must answer for the decisions they make when they stand before those who may re-hire, or fire, them based on those decisions. In our system, the citizens are supposed to be the judges who hold the elected officials accountable for how they lived up to the oath they swore. But even if the citizens forget their duty to America, those elected have sworn to remember it, no matter if that loyalty costs them an election.
If we are to change the direction in America today, the change must begin with that understanding. The job description of elected officials is not to "work for us", it is to "uphold the Constitution". And the job description of America’s citizens is to use our votes to reward those who do and replace those who don’t. If we all realized that we all are supposed to work for our Republic, perhaps the necessary changes will begin.