One of my favorite questions to ask candidates in the past has been “in your own words, what is the job description for the office you are seeking?” That continues to be one of my candidate questions because observing the representatives I have had (as well as members of Congress in general) convinces me that most of them do not understand what their job is. I have described many of them as representing the party or the government to their constituents rather than the other way around.
How would I answer that question? First let me say that my answer is generalized to apply to either Representatives or Senators. For one thing I would say that once elected they will be required to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. As keeping their oath is a mark of the integrity that is central to any position of trust, I would say that keeping their oath of office should be first and foremost in any description of the job of their office. I would also say that the exact opposite of what so many seem to do (representing party and government to constituents) is another primary task of the office that they are seeking. In other words they should be representing the interests of their constituents (that’s different than representing the interests of their campaign donors) to the legislative body they are elected to be a part of. I do admit however that representing the government and the wider perspective on the issues of the day to their constituents does have a place in their role. One of the advantages of a representative form of government is that those chosen to represent each group of people have the opportunity to help the people they represent to gain a greater understanding of issues than their local perspective would otherwise afford them.
A more complete description of what a legislator should do would take much more than one post. I hope to expound upon what a legislator is and should be in a series of posts in order to demonstrate how our current system has gone astray from the system that was designed and bequeathed to us by the founders of our nation.