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Representative Government
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I received a call last night from a campaign worker who was soliciting my vote for a particular candidate. In the course of the conversation, this person averred that 'only a person of my candidate's ethnicity can understand the problems faced by people of the same ethnicity.' Our city has such a large population of people of that ethnic background; therefore, he should be elected to represent them.

If you accept his initial premise, then at every level where we elect officials to make laws for us and administer them, we must have a representative to speak for: each ethnicity, both genders, all types of differently abled persons, poor children, and even (gasp!) WASPs and on and on.

And, I suppose, all these persons must be in such numbers as to represent their proportion in the population.

The legislature will need baby seats for the infants, day care for the children when they are not busy legislating, translators for those representatives who do not speak English, day care nurses for the differently abled who must have round the clock care, walkers and wheelchairs for senior citizens and so on and so forth.

But wait! If each of us is unique, then really every one of us must attend legislative sessions to make his voice heard, each of us speaking for our own singular interests. A multi-million-fold town meeting.

The Founding Fathers had no such concerns, nor did they envision representative government enfolding so many varied interests and needs. Their vision was of landed white Protestant males representing landed white Protestant males. No problem, mate.

So how do we establish representation? Well, we don't. It was a fine idea so long as the initial situation remained as the Founding Fathers had it, but nowadays there is no such thing as representative government. We elect an official about whom we know very little, since any politician of stature has had a professional PR job done on him.

Those of us who care to can research a candidate's speeches and previous voting record on the web, hoping that his words are coherent enough to form a reliable indicator of his future actions. We can vote against those who claim that their validity as politicians rests on ethnic background, language, religion; hoping at some time to find a person who wants to act for the greater good, for the people as a whole, making compromises that give everyone some of what he wants and needs. That's what they teach in civics class.

Or do all of us try to find the candidates most like ourselves and then hope that the elected official will vote as if we were voting directly. [He looks like me; he speaks the same language; therefore, he thinks like me and holds the same values.]

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