Posts Tagged ‘Jefferson’

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.”