Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Senator Murkowski as Role Model

Last week, after being harangued and bashed by President Trump, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) said what all Republican Senators should say and what should govern their actions. “With all due respect, Mr. President,” she reportedly told him, “I didn’t come here to represent the Republican Party. I am representing my constituents and the state of Alaska.”

This is the duty that all Congressmen and Senators have … to represent the best interests of their constituents and state.  That is their responsibility as elected officials.  If those interests go against the desires of Party leadership, so be it. 

We would not be in the partisan predicament we’ve been witnessing in Congress if all members acted on that responsibility of office.  Sure, some are truly far-right conservatives and know that’s why they were elected.  But many who have toed the line of Senate majority-leader McConnell on numerous issues are not hard-line conservatives.  Their fealty to the Party is misplaced and goes against the best interests of their constituents.

Some Republicans might try to argue that their sworn oath “to support the constitution” overrides the interests of constituents.  That may be true when a matter truly contravenes the constitution in letter or principle, but the types of things that Congress has been debating, and regarding which Senator McConnell has repeatedly enforced party discipline, do not rise to that level of import. 

Which raises the question.  Who are the “constituents” when that phrase is used?  Is it the people who voted for President Trump or a particular Representative or Senator?  Or is it all the people in their respective jurisdictions?

Presidents often say in their inaugural speech that they promise to be the President for all Americans.  Even Trump made such a statement.  He said he would restore the promise of America "for all our people. " And that is indeed as it should be.  The President is not elected just to promote the interests of those who voted for him.  He is the President of the entire country.  Yes, he campaigned on certain themes and made certain promises, and he should live up to those, in general.  But once elected, those campaign themes need to be tempered by the best interests of the country as a whole.

Such tempering is not an example of a President selling out, any more than is the change in tone and position from the primaries, when the combat is between members of the same party and the audience are members of that party, to that of the general election when the audience is the entire country.  The same change can be often be seen in those who are appointed to the Supreme Court.  Many a President has been dismayed that the person they appointed because of his politics, legal and otherwise, has turned out once on the bench to change his respective because of the role he has assumed.  Perhaps the most famous example of this was Justice Earl Warren.

Each and every Representative and Senator should keep Senator Murkowski’s words before them when they debate a matter and feel pressure from Party leadership to vote in a way which is contrary to the interests of their constituents.  Often that pressure is nothing short of blackmail, as it was when Senator Murkowski was threatened with Alaska’s losing a variety of significant benefits from the Federal government.  She still stood her ground, as was her duty.