Constituent Communication Can Innoculate Against Insiderism

When I wrote about a legislator’s role as an information analyst the comments initially centered on Sen. Bob Bennett because of a quote I had used despite my desire to not single anyone out. Later in the comments on that post I made this statement that deserves to be elevated to its own post here:

In my opinion, the best defense against staying too long and becoming part of the problem is to maintain communication with constituents that is open enough for the constituents to indicate when the officeholder is compromising too much (or not enough in some rare cases) and the integrity to step aside when the officeholder finds that they consistently cannot act in accordance with the feedback they are receiving from constituents in good conscience.

Now that Senator Bennett has demonstrated a refusal to maintain open communication with constituents I am singling him out and exposing his refusal to communicate openly.

The senator wrote on his campaign website that the time for Republicans to stand up and fight is now – I could not agree more with that sentiment but when I wrote a comment that was not absolutely complementary to the senator the result was naked censorship.

Here is my non-complementary, but hardly inappropriate comment:

The fight is now and it’s time for new, fresh ideas and fresh faces. It’s time for the old generals to ride off into the sunset where they can share their experience while allowing younger, fresher faces to carry the banner.

Bob, you’ve been in Washington since before the 1994 “republican revolution.” Let’s have a show of hands from all those who think we’re better off now than we were when you were elected in 1992.

You are among the crowd that managed to achieve Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and the presidency during which time our Republican elected officials failed us as miserably as they could.

We do need change (not the kind Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are pushing), the fight is now, and some of us are not insane enough to think that we can get a different result by sending the same people back to Washington that we had between 2000 and 2008 – because last time we were “victorious” we were either deceived by most of you or else you seriously let up. I for one do not intend to let this coming opportunity pass by with more of the same.

Comments on the senator’s site are moderated – and I have no problem with that – but if only one point of view is to be accepted in the comments integrity would dictate that this should be stated on the site. I even went so far in my efforts to encourage the senator to not censor me as to make my comment public and predict that it would be removed.

I had captured a screen-shot of my comment in moderation:

 my comment

Later I returned and found that my comment had not been approved while many complimentary comments were approved (note the times on the comments which prove that moderation had taken place since I left my comment at 5:54pm).

approved comments

When I told my wife about the incident she asked if I seriously believed that a candidate and office holder should be expected to allow less than flattering comments on their website in the name of open communication. My response is “absolutely.” If a candidate or office holder is intent upon keeping the channels of communication open they must accept negative feedback as well as positive feedback. If the negative feedback isĀ  uncivil it can be ignored. If it is mistaken it can be refuted – publicly. Again, I’m not saying that moderation is completely unacceptable, but there are better ways to do it. Senator Hatch has moderation on his site and was even responsive enough to change his terms of use when I took the time to point out some problems with the terms as then written. (Using Hatch as a positive example should carry some weight considering how much I have criticized him in the past.)

I try to avoid calling a person’s integrity into question and will stop short of doing so now, but I will say that open communication is a prerequisite to being able to exercise integrity in response to communication from constituents. I stated that the antidote to becoming part of the problem was open communication combined with sufficient integrity to step aside if the time comes that an elected official cannot accept feedback and continue to act in good conscience in whatever capacity they are elected to act in. It is impossible to demonstrate such integrity while actively censoring a select portion of the feedback being offered. Based on the responses when I shared my comment on Twitter it is safe to say that I am not alone in the concerns and opinions I shared. If Bennett cannot accept the existence of those honest opinions then he has no business in public office – with or without personal integrity.

4 comments for “Constituent Communication Can Innoculate Against Insiderism

  1. November 9, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    It appears that fate has determined that little other than serious illness or death can stop Sen. Bennett from winning a fourth term. The Club for Growth can make all the noise it wants, but the good senator lacks serious competition. He has no incentive to give detractors any recognition whatsoever.

    • November 9, 2009 at 1:03 pm

      I understand that. I certainly do not expect him to act like a good representative. He’ll try talking like one for the next 12 months and then he can safely forget about reaching out to the people of Utah for another 4 years. Honestly, I am beginning to look at this race and wonder if we might be better off having Bennett misrepresent us from that senate seat for another term rather than turn the seat over to someone younger who will likely have a longer political life in front of them than Bennett has left. (That’s just evidence that I have not yet found a candidate who has earned my confidence that they can win and perform the duties of office better than our beloved incumbent.)

  2. MikeLeeisaDoofus
    February 8, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Would you please point out to me where you have a constitutional right to insult someone on their own campaign website, paid for with private funds and not taxpayer dollars? Thank you.

    • February 8, 2010 at 1:08 pm

      I never said I had any such constitutional right. I simply asserted that allowing negative feedback from constituents along with the positive is a good way to keep our elected representatives grounded. The only constitutional right I have is the right to air my own opinions – as I am doing here. Notice that I consistently allow feedback from people who disagree with me – I’m not asking for anything special from our senator.

      While we’re asking questions – would you please point out where I insulted Senator Bennett on his site? (I assume you’ll have to look through what I have posted here to find where I insulted him since he has not allowed my comments to be posted at his site.)

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