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    Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    challenge posed by Randy Myers 62 days 18 hours ago

    Category: Politics
    Challenge Forum

    Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    In early October, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat in staunchly Republican West Virginia, announced that he would vote to put Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    It is impossible to know whether, in his heart of hearts, Manchin bought what he said—that while he believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that she was sexually assaulted as a teenager, he didn’t believe the facts showed, as Ford alleged, that it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her. What is clear is that in crossing party lines (no other Democrat voted to advance Kavanaugh), Manchin voted the way a majority of his constituents would have wanted—and probably improved his chances of getting reelected when his term expires in 2019.

    All of which raises an old but always relevant question: Should elected officials vote with their conscience or their constituents—or simply with their party?

    When the nation’s founders created our bicameral legislature—a Congress with two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate—they believed members of the House would align themselves more closely with the will of the people, since they would have to stand for reelection by a smaller group of people every two years. They anticipated that senators, then chosen by state legislatures—and then and now serving six-year terms— would have more freedom to vote as they saw fit.

    It hasn’t necessarily worked out that way. Senators have been elected directly by voters since the enactment of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, and today must work just as hard, if not harder, to stay in the electorate’s good graces.

    In modern times, Prof. John G. Matsusaka of the University of California has studied what politicians actually do, and has concluded that legislators follow the will of the majority of their constituents about 65 percent of the time, according to a working paper he published in 2017. But Matsuska also found that when a politician’s personal views differ from those of the people who put him into office, the politician is overwhelmingly likely to follow his or her own interests, beliefs and ideologies.

    What do you think? Should politicians elected to Congress vote in line with their party, with what the majority of people who put them into office want them to do, or based on what they think is best for their country? Why?

    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    Hi Randy,

    This is a very good question. I totally believe that our "representatives" should "represent" the people whose voice they are supposed to be reflecting, regardless of their own personal belief. Not because they might put themselves in a position to get reelected, but to truly represent the people they are supposed to represent. Why else should we vote for them in the first place? They are supposed to be the voice of the people. I think sometimes our representatives forget that, especially the ones who have been there for an extremely long time that may be out of touch with their constituents.

    Thanks for the forum, and have a great week!


    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    *Hi Randy,

    This is nothing new, or at least I've known about it for some time. The electoral college members are also voting against their party's choice, debunking the idea that voting for these people in office will bring party represented results. If that were true, all presidents would win by the popular vote and the electoral colleges, in most situations. It is not uncommon for people to judge against the party, the same as it is not uncommon for citizens to vote for a president whom they think will do a better job. Honestly, I feel it is misleading when elected officials vote against their party; especially if it is clear and outspoken. However, when elected officials are up for re-election, the voters will not forget at the polls....and vote for another candidate, who may possibly be in the opposite party.

    I think it depends on the state represented and the parties they see fit. West Virginia has always been a republican state, and even now the only reason he is in office is because he was endorsed by Trump, which forced him to submit to Trump's expectations and demands in return. But if a strong-willed democrat from California voted republican, I would be extremely upset and call that person a traitor unless there is valid proof to back her judgment. Otherwise, if I voted a strong democrat into office and he/she won, I would expect them to vote democrat for the presidential elections, but probably not much more.

    Good topic, I appreciate the timing!
    Gina J

    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?


    I am new to voting so my involvement in the political arena is limited at the present. I am just getting started as I am legal to vote finally. So, I appreciate your forum this morning and I plan to read everyone's experienced thoughts on the topic. Here is what I am thinking about your topic, what I have read, and what I am learning as the upcoming election is upon us.

    In a democratic society, a politician is voted into office to be the voice of the people. Politicians have an important role in fulfilling their responsibilities for the voters who put them there but they also must have the intellect to know when to inject their personal beliefs and ability to balance them on certain matters. Leaders need to be strong decision makers regardless if it does not align with voters.

    I read an article titled, "Study: Politicians Vote Against the Will of Their Constituents 35 Percent of the Time." dated June 16, 2017. It stated, "Academic studies have long since observed that whether they are influenced by special interests or their own preferences, politicians will often diverge from the will of the electorate. The belief that politicians act according to their own interests once they come into office played a big part in the disillusion and anger that fueled the global crisis of representative democracies and contributed to the rise of Trump. A 2016 Quinnipiac University poll, for instance, showed that 76 percent of Americans agree with the statement “Public officials don’t care much what people like me think.” Keep in mind, though, this stat means 65% of the time legislators adhere to the will of their constituents!

    I realize that voter preferences usually include impossible demands, such as high levels of service and not have a means to pay for it. Studies have shown that human decision making is systematically biased, for example underestimating future costs of decisions with long-term impacts. The decisions of representatives who actually consider the public good are expected to differ from the preferences expressed by constituents. Differences between decisions and constituents' preferences are actually indicate a good and desirable thing - responsible and sustainable decision making.

    I believe that politicians should have a cautious blend of both adhering to his party line and that of the wishes of the people. I vote for someone because I believed in their convictions and trust they will work for me.



    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    Hey Randy,
    I guess it would be my hope and expectation that the politician is already representing their conscience and so that would then fall in line with the group of people they are representing. There shouldn't be a difference between what they feel and what their party feels.

    That being said, I can't stand voting based only on party lines. Let's vote for people who will make positive changes and focus on the betterment of all individuals. Let's eliminate this notion that you can only vote for someone if you share the same party status. Maybe at that point we could continue to filter out the dirty politicians and those controlled by money.


    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    Hmm, interesting question. I think it's a bit cowardly just to go along with what everyone else is doing just because you're in the same party when you have objections to what is being done. On the other hand, sometimes representatives don't truly represent what the country wants as a whole. For instance, while there are some representatives who vote with what the people want, on the topic of abortion, it has been proven that a majority of Americans think that a woman should have a choice in the matter of going through with a pregnancy or not, yet we currently have an administration and others who want to end safe abortion (because it's known that even though abortion is illegal in some countries, women get them secretly done anyways, and sometimes they die in the aftermath).

    Anyway, in my opinion, a large handful of representatives/politicians don't always have the whole country's interests at heart, and I've sometimes wondered how things could be different if we as a country voted in on certain matters rather than the Senate and House of Representatives. That's my two cents for the day. Great forum!

    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    Hi Randy Meyers,

    I agree with Savann that it seems cowardly for a political leader to vote with their party just for the sake of voting with their party. Loyalty is admirable, but leaders are also supposed to lead, even when the constituents are confused and uninformed. Personally, when I see someone sticking up for what they believe, I develop more respect for them. They will be persecuted, rejected, and possibly lose their spot in office, but it shows they are not in the political sphere for money, but because they genuinely care about enacting change. Of course this isn't always true, maybe their motives are ill conceived, but why would a politician put himself/herself in that situation unless they were passionate? I also agree with Morgan up above when she talked about the whole voting for your party for the sake of voting with your party. We should vote for those that we believe will be the best representatives for our country. Not everyone perfectly fits into a party, and if they do the probably had to change their ideals in their heart to conform with the crowd. Conformity executes genuineness in my opinion.

    I also agree with Jon on saying "I believe that politicians should have a cautious blend of both adhering to his party line and that of the wishes of the people." Since we do vote for candidates on the basis of assuming loyalty, but also on the basis of integrity, politicians need to artfully weigh the costs and be ready to stand up to their constituents and give them a good reason for all their decisions. If a politician makes empty promises, that is unfair to the constituents, but if a politician admits his ideals, goals, and preferences, the people would be less aggravated. Transparency should be a more desirable trait in this world. We are master deceivers it seem, deceiving ourselves, believing lies. What we need is truth.

    Thanks for reading!


    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?


    I believe that elected officials should vote with the party they are supposed to represent. I do not believe its fair to the official's people if they vote in the opposite direction of their elected political party. They are supposed to represent a population and not go with their own beliefs. Often when they go against their parties, they know that they will be voted out of office. They always have to know their position is on the line and if they would feel strongly for another party, they would have to be prepared to lose their job because of their beliefs.

    Have an amazing day!!


    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    Hello Randy!

    I'm not someone who's been very involved in politics. This November will be my second time voting as an 18 year old. I'm starting to learn more about this bogus system that was invented and I can't say I'm happy with it. Too be honest I wish there was never a party to begin with. I think whomever people want to vote for should vote their way. I also don't like that fact that elected officials should be allowed to vote for who our Supreme Court Justice should be, I believe the PEOPLE of America should be the one's who should vote for the person they see fit seeing that it effects our lives. No party should determine something that important for us. I think they have their own political agenda's and selfish ways of doing what they do and we have to live with those consequences for years to life. I also don't like the vote when electing our Presidents, again it should be always based on popularity and not electoral college because it makes it seem like we've voted for nothing. When the House, Senate and Administration make the statement of America voted for a certain president who didn't win the popular vote then it's a lie. Everyone's vote should count for a candidate. No one person should speak on behalf of a state. Everything that goes on and effects our country and lives should be voted on by the PEOPLE. This is why some people don't vote.

    Thank you for the forum!


    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    politicians should vote their conscience for no more than two terms! get the HELL out...

    let's end political careerism... it's worse than getting drunk on two beers.

    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    GREAT point to bring up.
    The Senate was originally meant to represent each state (regardless of each state's population, 2 Senators would act as representatives for their state - thus, there are a total of 100 Senators).
    They were expected to vote their "conscience," ie. vote to help the state which they represented (NOT necessarily the people). Because of this, the Founding Fathers decided they would not be directly elected by the people.

    Instead, Senators were elected by each States' local government representatives, and were thus not under pressure from the people to make "majority rule" decisions all the time, as the House of Representatives is. (THIS is what distinguished the House from the Senate - now as I is explained below, there is hardly a meaningful difference)...

    Unfortunately, in the wake of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, Senators became directly subject to the whims of the people, which we have seen to be wholly sporadic and often uniformed. By this I mean, the Constitution was altered to have the people from each state directly elect their Senators, exactly like they elect their House Representatives (granted, once every 6 yrs vs. once every 2 yrs).

    A VERY SAD THING IT IS.... The US was brilliant in its set up of Federal vs. State government... Unfortunately, that structure is slowly being altered to reflect a continental majority rule over all...

    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    I am not sure I have the final say on this but I will say that I believe this became a big issue during the last presidential primary with the Dems and their superdelegates. In at least some cases, while the majority of constituents went for Bernie Sanders, the superdelegates, who were much more wrapped up in the Democratic machine, chose to vote for Clinton. In this case, I think it was very wrong to go against the chosen candidate of the constituents, especially since that means the delegates had made up their minds without even thinking about the information they gained during debates.

    Re: Should Politicians Vote their Conscience?

    Hi Randy,

    I believe that once a politician is elected on a platform that was promised and voted on by the people then said politician should follow that platform when voting and making decisions. I believe that should be done regardless of their own personal opinions and popular opinion. To me, that is the key to the definition of a representative democracy.

    There is no doubt that the answer is more complex than it seems though! At some point, it would make sense that elected officials would take public opinion, laws and their conscience into consideration and follow along that line of reasoning. Easier said than done! However, maybe that's what Senator Manchin did in the Kavanaugh vote. Interesting thought!

    Thank you for reading my thoughts and opinions,