Posts Tagged ‘Edmund Burke’

Tim Pawlenty announces for President, grabs third rail of Iowa politics, earns mythical Edmund Burke Award.

May 23, 2011

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) announced that he’d tell voters the “hard truths” as he campaigns for the Republican Presidential nomination. Ho-hum. We’ve heard that one before.

But listen up. Pawlenty opened his campaign today in Iowa by telling Iowans that he opposes federal subsidies for corn-based ethanol. In Iowa for gosh sakes! Next thing you know he’ll tell Floridians that he favors raising the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, but his campaign says that’s exactly what he’ll do next.

The great shame of democratic (and Democratic…and Republican) politics is politicians telling voters what they think the voters want to hear instead of what the politician really thinks. Pawlenty says he’ll be a different kind of candidate, and his first day is a sign that he means it.

Edmund Burke told his constituents 237 years ago that a representative owes them “his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving [them], if he sacrifices it to [their] opinion.” Following Burke’s example is one of the two highest ethical duties* of an elected official.

Pawlenty gets the mythical Edmund Burke Award for his ethanol position. Here’s hoping that politicians of both parties rush to follow his example.


*The other is the duty to heed Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote, ‘The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.”


Should legislators vote their conscience? Or the way their voters want? Marjorie Margolies and Edmund Burke say “conscience”

March 19, 2010

On the eve of a historic vote in the House on health care reform Republicans aren’t conflicted. They’ll all vote ‘no.’ But on the Democratic side it’s not so easy. Some members who favor reform are in districts that poll strongly against; some members who oppose reform are in districts that poll in favor. Both groups are conflicted: vote their conscience or vote their constituents?

Marjorie Margolies argues, in an op-ed in Thursday’s Washington Post, that members should vote their conscience. She’s a voice worth paying attention to, since her vote of conscience in favor of President Clinton’s budget proposal is generally considered to have led directly to her defeat in the 1994 election. But if you think Margolies’ advice just serves her desire to get health care reform passed, consider what the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke had to say on the subject in 1774.

Burke’s Speech To The Electors Of Bristol was well known to Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founding Fathers. Many political scientists consider it one of the documents underlying our Constitution. Burke told his constituents that a representative owes them “his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”