Note to Readers: Keep in mind, this is an “opinion statement,” and also keep in mind that I vote. If you agree with my general position, then your vote along with mine doubles the strength of our position. If you do not agree with me, you have to vote to cancel my vote!
When we vote for a candidate, we are selecting delegate(s) to our government to represent our community interests (national, state, district, city, county, etc.). Voting is the foundation of governing ourselves via a republican governing model. In summary (if you don’t want to read the whole article), the following traits should apply to all elected national-level officials (and everyone else as appropriate):
1. Be honest, and demonstrate integrity, intestinal fortitude, and focus
2. Be informed, intelligent, and willing to listen (to “the people” and to each other)
3. Be fiscally responsible to the whole of the United States
4. Not a “one issue” candidate
5. Be a “citizen representative”
6. Term limits should not be needed
Now that you have had a good laugh, read on to find out more about each of these traits.
Honesty, Integrity, Intestinal Fortitude, and Focus – When I vote for a candidate I am casting my ballot for the person whom I think will work to ensure what I expect of government is accomplished and maintained (see Part I of this series). I will vote for the individual whom I think will exercise the intelligence, character, integrity, objectivity, judgment, fiscal responsibility, shared political objectives and intestinal fortitude when representing his/her constituency. I want is a government composed of fiscally responsible representatives—dedicated to maintaining the financial health of the country first because I also think that underlying every Congressional decision is a fiscal consideration and responsibility—what is going to cost us? Is it really worth it? How are we going to pay for it?
I also expect my representative to have an appropriate set of priorities. For example, for my US Senators and Representatives, I expect them to have priorities commensurate with the authorities and responsibilities of the Constitutional authorities of the Federal Government. One of those responsibilities, for example, is to establish and enact a budget appropriate to support the Government’s operation, and to do this in a fiscally responsible and timely manner. I expect Federal-level representatives to focus on issues of broad national importance: defense, interstate and international commerce, international relations, etc.
I expect our national representatives to have the courage to make the hard, “right” and responsible decisions—i.e., “right for the country” may not always be a popular decision. If the decision is truly “right,” I think the majority of people in the United States will eventually understand it was a correct decision.
I am not much interested in a candidate’s personal life, believing that if the representative meets the requirements for candidacy and satisfies the conditions set out above (and has not done anything felonious or criminal) then I may be satisfied. But reputation and character do count. I also firmly believe there are very few of us—“private citizens” or individuals in the highest level of government—who have not committed errors of judgment or mistakes along the way in our lives. Divorce, an affair, DUIs earlier in life, etc., seem to emerge in the middle of political campaigns years after they occurred. I believe people can learn from mistakes and I would prefer to focus on more recent performance and the person’s character that his or her life has formed. Even background checks for high-level security clearances only go back a preset number of years for most aspects of a person’s history.
Informed, Intelligent, and Willing to Listen – I expect my representatives to have a broad, informed understanding of issues relevant to the office they will hold, including a broader perspective as to how their decisions will affect the community at large.
Fiscally Responsible to the Whole of the United States – While our representatives are elected to represent their respective states, it is my opinion that the priority of our national Congressional representatives should focus on “the good of the United States” as a nation. There may come a time, when the voting is done, that national interests supersede state and district interests.
No “One Issue” Candidates – I would prefer that no representative office holder be elected based on his or her position on a single issue. First, I expect the collective body of representatives to make a reasoned and valid decision on each topic presented for consideration. I do not want, nor would I vote for an individual based on a single issue such gun control or gun rights—whether I agree or disagree with the candidate on that specific issue.
For example, while I am not in favor of abortion, especially as a form of contraception, I feel this is an emotional issue that may distract Federal level representatives, and the voting citizenry, from focusing on the equally critical business of running the country.
[I also find it conceivable that there are those both in Government and other activists, who use these highly charged emotional issues, e.g., abortion or gun control, to distract voters from other equally important issues that the proponents do not want debated.]
Be “Citizen Representatives” – I would really like our representatives to be “real” people. I know a dozen people in my community who could make rational and reasonably correct decisions on Congressional level issues. Yes, being a Congressional representative is an important, prestigious, and responsible position, and these people should be compensated fairly, and provided the resources (i.e., financial support) to complete essential travel and have a reasonable staff to assist in data collection, secretarial services, etc. Beyond this, they should be citizen representatives who live, to the extent possible, like the rest of us live, using and paying for the same medical services delivery system the rest of us use. They should pay and expect to use Social Security like the rest of us. Their government pension should be the same as other government workers at a comparable pay grade. They should have access to the same liberties, sense of security, and exposed to the same threats to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to which we are all exposed.
Term Limits should Not be Needed – I do not generally support term limits for most political office (except President–I think George Washington got it right!) because: (a) By placing term limits on a candidate takes away my total freedom to vote for the candidate of my choice. I do agree that there are office holders that should be voted out of office, but that is the responsibility of the voters. (b) If we ever find a representative who is intelligent, honest, effective, and has the best interests of the United States at heart, I would like the option to keep him or her in office! I also would like to think that voters would exercise the necessary judgment to cast out ineffective or corrupt representatives at the next election. This, of course, requires an educated, thoughtful, well and honestly informed voting population.
Finally – I expect Federal level representatives to NOT involve themselves in issues that can and should be administered on a state or local level, or that are matters of a specific religious or cultural conscience. While we all agree that education is important for an informed citizenry, education is not the responsibility of the Federal Government. The states have assumed the responsible for establishing schools and educating the states’ students. Actually, in my opinion, education should really start at the family level, and families should demand an adequate level of education for their children. If you want the Federal Government (bureaucrats) to meddle in education, you may need a Constitutional Amendment.
I accept that I may not be aware of every nuance of every decision, and accept that occasionally, my representative may not vote as I would like. At this point, I want to believe my representative made the best decision based on the facts and information available (and was not bought or coerced). Of course, if my representative consistently votes contrary to my understanding of each issue, I reserve the right to not vote for him/her in future elections.
The “bottom line,” however, for the continued performance of each elected representative is the responsibility of the voters who elected him or her to office—you and I.
I challenge you to support or refute any or all of my “traits” described above, or add your own. I will be happy to include thoughtful, constructive, even opposing, comments as part of this article, or incorporated in future articles.