Thursday, March 18, 2010

Forget Your Conscience

Marjorie Margolies is on everyone's mind this week (mine included), and she has an op-ed in the Washington Post today telling Dems to vote their conscience.  But her evidence isn't that she voted her conscience in her famous vote in 1993 -- it's that she voted her district.  Alas for her political career, her district didn't agree (in the short term), but her defense of her vote after all this time is entirely district-based:

Is it possible that, while 55 percent of my reliably Republican district opposed the Clinton budget, a vote in favor of that budget was, in fact, in the best interest of my district? Can a member of the House of Representatives ever vote with a minority of her district and still be voting in the district's best interest? Is it possible that a majority of your constituents could be -- dare I say it? -- wrong?
Of course -- and that's why you're there. Otherwise, we'd vote everything by referendum.
My constituents in Montgomery County, Pa. -- the ones so adamantly opposed to the legislation for which I became a cautionary tale -- reaped some of the greatest benefits during the years immediately after passage. 
There's no great principle here that she was fighting for.  If her conscience was involved, it was only telling her to do things that would help her district -- or to keep her campaign promises to help her district. 

That's OK!  If she promised her constituents that she would look after their economic well-being, then she was being a good representative if she believed she was doing exactly that -- she believed, and probably correctly, that she knew more about it than they did.  She may have believed that if they sat where she sat, they would vote the same way.  If that's what she promised, then that's good representation. 

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