I have been debating whether to comment on January’s upsetting events in the capital of our republic. I have decided to do that today, and what I have to say might actually upset some of you …
I have been debating whether to comment on January’s upsetting events in the capital of our republic. I have decided to do that today, and what I have to say might actually upset some of you who read this column and the opinions I express in it.
I am going to defend Liz Cheney, who represents Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives, who voted “yes” on the motion to impeach President Donald Trump — even though 70% of Wyoming voters supported him.
Now, I have not voted for Rep. Cheney, and I probably never will for the simple reason that she is too conservative for my taste. I don’t consider myself a person of the far left when it comes to politics, because I support some positions that are, if not conservative, at least close to the center of the political spectrum — and I am not defending Rep. Cheney because it was President Trump she voted against. Rather, I am defending her because she chose to vote to defend the republic I love rather than following the wishes of a huge majority of Trump supporters in Wyoming.
Many Wyoming voters, though, are denouncing Rep. Cheney’s vote and are condemning her for failing to support President Trump. As a result, she may find herself opposed in the next election by one or more members of her own party, possibly assisted by Trump himself.
This situation arises because there are two different perceptions about what should drive a congressman’s vote. Should congressmen base their votes on the results of the last election or the latest polls? Or should the people expect them to vote based on what they know about the issue and what the impact of their votes will have on their constituency and/or the good of the nation? In other words, is a representative simply a messenger, who just votes the way the majority of his constituents vote, or is he or she a trustee, whose constituents trust them to consider an issue carefully and vote based on what he has learned, even if it goes against the position of most of the people he represents?
In our system of government, we elect representatives and send them to Washington to take on the responsibility of directing our national government. We commonly call Rep. Cheney the representative from Wyoming, but in reality, her proper title is United States representative. She, like 434 other U.S. representatives, is responsible to the voters of Wyoming, but her main responsibility is to pass the legislation needed to direct and fund the actions of the U.S. government.
Furthermore, the men who created the Constitution included provisions that give a representative like Rep. Cheney a bit of freedom from the wrath of those of us who sent her to Washington if she casts a vote that the majority of her constituents don’t like. The Constitution specifies that the salaries of members of Congress are paid by the federal government out of the national treasury. That means Wyoming Republicans cannot punish Rep. Cheney by cutting her salary or failing to pay her, no matter how angry they are over her recent vote.
The Constitution also protects members of Congress from arrest while they are engaged in the task of running the government. That prevents the state from keeping a member tied up with traffic tickets to keep them from getting to Washington and voting in a way their constituents wouldn’t like.
Of course, most of the time, a representative will be of the same opinion as their constituents, and he or she will pass their position on when they vote. But there may be issues which a majority of voters support, but which the study by a Congressional committee or the floor debate have convinced the lawmaker that passing the legislation would be bad for the nation. Or they may feel that the proposed legislation violates other laws or even the Constitution. Consequently, a representative’s conscience demands he or she casts a vote their constituency disagrees with.
That’s the position Rep. Cheney was in when she decided to vote to impeach President Trump. She believes that Trump should have been removed from office, even if only for the last few days of his presidency, because of his attempt to overturn the election by claiming fraud for which there was no evidence. In doing so, he was trying to negate the rule of law, which our system of government is built on. That would have done damage to our democratic government, damage that might well have been irreparable.
It took courage for Rep. Cheney to vote to impeach President Trump. Whatever you think of our representative, she should be commended for that.