Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Comment of the Week: Blobby

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | March 27, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Site News
Tags: gay marriage, HJR-6, Indiana, marriage amendment, same-sex marriage

On Betty Greene Salwak's post Lobbying Against Indiana's Marriage Discrimination Amendment: Newbie Report, in which she reported on her conversation with Indiana Senator Scott Schneider:

I did most of the talking: I'm straight, Christian, and I know that this amendment is wrong; and I know that many more people just like me agree. He didn't want to hear about the poll that backed me up because "polls don't sway my vote. I was elected to vote my conscience."

The poll she mentions is the one reported on by Bil this week Poll: Most Hoosiers Oppose Marriage Amendment.. An Indiana Senate Committee approved the marriage discrimination amendment this past week.

In response to Betty's post, Projector Blobby said:

"I was elected to vote my conscience." Actually, he was not. I applaud you for going and doing that, as frustrating as it may have been for you.

Good point, Blobby. Is a legislator, such as Indiana Senator Scott Schneider, elected to vote his conscience, even if it ignores the will of the people? Or is he elected to represent the people, and should at least acknowledge that the people's will is important in deciding the fate of LGBT Hoosiers? What say you, Projectors?

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Principles over polls | March 27, 2011 7:26 PM

That's getting into dangerous territory there. A legislator is elected to represent his/her district, but there's no reason why he should not be willing to follow his conscience over a (statewide) poll on certain issues. Granted, in this case, his conscience is badly informed, but in general, yes, you should be willing to vote your principles and conscience over the polls. It's because of that that Terry Branstad is courageously standing up for our rights in Iowa--because he refuses to put up a minority group's civil rights to the will of the people. God bless him.

I must say I cannot fault the legislator for his defense of such a vote here. Were it the other way around, is it then called "Standing up for what's right(numbers be damned)?" The only time polls should matter would be behind-the-scenes for a sponsor to point them out to a wavering colleague who seems to think (s)he might suffer from a progressive vote, though is personally fine with it.

So, this legislator has the "right" to vote as he sees fit, being held accountable for it next time he comes up for election.

He's a hypocrite, just like most of them. Usually they say they'll vote the way their constituents want them to. But since this poll says that many of his constituents are against the amendment, he now says he's voting with his conscience. I don't think he even has a conscience!

Edmund Burke, a Member of the British Parliament in the late 18th century, said, "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion." Sadly, if we want our champions to vote in our favor in the face of majority opposition, we must allow men like Schneider to do the same. We must wait for the weight to history to prove him wrong.

This is a debate as old as the republic, as you know, Jillian. I absolutely side with Edmund Burke's philosophy that a representative owes their constituents their judgment and industry and not merely their compliance.

There's no point electing representatives if all they're going to do is rubber stamp the electorate. That could be done with polls. If the people don't like how the representative is voting, they can elect someone else. That's the remedy, not turning an elected official a mouthpiece.

Rory nails it. This debate has been around a long time.

Ideally, an elected represntative reflects the wills of the populous of his/her district. But at the same time, we assign these legislators into committees so they can become educated on specific subjects, and through that education, they might come to a differet understanding. It's their job to communicate their stances to their constitutency, but that doesn't mean they need to look at an opinion poll before every vote.

Not familiar with the Edmund Burke quote but I agree with Rory. Leaders should inform the electorate and lead if they have been chosen to do so. It's a little more complicated than that, however. Few leaders are given the opportunity to be heard. I've been following Ronald Reagan's work as a representative of G E, lately. Have you been paying attention to what that has led to?

Who is listened to is a matter of who has the spot light and who they are willing to put into it. Marriage equality is a minority rights issue, regardless.

John Gagon | March 28, 2011 1:25 AM

As soon as we put the representative in representative democracy, we are in a sense trusting that these representatives will combine what we want with the their expertise of the best means and ends for it. A representative is allowed their persona and do not have to be the people's puppets in all matters, perhaps "most matters" but not all. We trust their education sometimes to trump our opinions....we vote qualifications and not just agreement. I may not like a politician's stance on something but I do sometimes trust that if they are qualified, they may know a few things I don't and so I might give the benefit of the doubt. In various controversial issues or grey areas, as long as they are doing their job ethically, and they have the popular vote and did not misrepresent themselves, their commitments during election, I'm not going to go past a certain line in disagreement with them or claiming they do not have the right to vote conscience. If it's critical enough and I was mislead by my own ignorance, the system is such we can elect someone else next time.

All of us have a variety of opinions and we can't expect politicians to agree with everyone all the time.

Silly me. I thought a legislator was elected to vote the will of the people, rather that his own will. Now what do we do when the will of the people is in opposition to the will of the legislator?? Oh, right, we vote him out.

Legislators are elected to represent their constituents' views on issues, but they are also bound to work within the confines of the constitution, whether state or federal. And no responsible legal expert is going to claim that the will of the people is final, particularly in regard to civil rights. That's one reason we have courts empowered to measure laws against constitutional requirements.

As for voting his conscience -- I don't want to think about the conscience of a man holding a public trust who is willing to sacrifice the rights of a minority for political gain -- and there seem to be far too many of them.

Rick Sutton | March 28, 2011 7:15 AM

This "conscience-v-constituents" argument has been a delicate tightrope for two centuries.

I know Schneider's district. It's not quite as conservative as he thinks.

But it's pretty rightwing.

Schneider was just looking for an excuse and a way to shut down the conversation. I'm sure if we wanted to we could go through polling data and find the 800 times he didn't vote with his constituents.

I think there's also option 3 to consider: voting in accordance to self-interest. That includes voting sometimes with the people that elected a pol in order to get re-elected, but first and foremost with campaign contributors and people who'll cushion a pol's retirement.

Assuming a moral stance of any sort comes into play each time, or at least most of the time, is wishful thinking.

When a poll favors a politician's view, trust me, they use it. If it does not, then they sway to the conscience piece of garbage they trot out when convenient.

And I can gurarntee you he/they cares about polls when it comes to his/their electability.

However, while they do lead, they are elected to represent the people. That their conscience is based on their beliefs (and maybe only their own) - religious and otherwise - that affect hundreds of thousands of constituents can be frightening.

Yes, politicians who ignore those they represent can be voted out in 2-6 years. By then major damage can be done and at times it is irreversible.

Funny, we agree with politicians voting a certain way when they AGREE with our views, even when it's against popular vote. Consistently, bigoted, homophobic Americans have insisted that the government does NOT have the right to "impose" equality and justice and justice for all under the law by allowing marriage equality for same-sex couples. We have continually had our civil rights put to a vote by the people and any politician who speaks out against the majority is going against the will of the people and abusing their authority and labeled "activist [insert title here]." But the MINUTE the public opinion tide changes and becomes more consistently FOR equality, the minute the majority starts to support marriage equality (which, of course, we should wait for because we all know, historically, we have only established legal equality for minorities when the majority has decided they are ready to NOT discriminate against people on the basis of color and gender, right?) and a politician THEN votes against what the majority of the public wants, well, they're doing what's right, following their conscience, and are not and should not be subject to the will of the people. Rather convenient, if you ask me. "They should do what the majority of the people want, UNLESS I'm in the minority and they support MY position and THEN they should vote their conscience because it AGREES with my opinion and position." Nice. SO the message here: we don't care what you use as an excuse to discriminate: your personal opinion or the opinion of the majority, just so long as it upholds discrimination against people I have no reason to hate and discriminate against but for the fact that I've been taught and told to.

Stop fooling yourself: this is NOT and never has been a debate about whether this Senator acted appropriately by "following his conscience." It is a debate about what our politicians are elected to do: represent everyone, or just the people they agree with. If you boil it down to that, you CANNOT come up with a single ethical, moral, legal argument to support anything that would deny equality in the law for a group of people based solely on their sexual orientation. Replace "same sex marriage" with "mixed race" marriage and then tell me you'd feel exactly the same way about this, that the Senator should vote on his conscience even if the majority wants to see racist laws eradicated. These elected people have an OBLIGATION to uphold the law and support the constitution and any act that violates the freedoms, protections and legal equality of a large group of people, THEIR constituents too, based on sexual orientation because of religious or personal bigotry should be seen as a violation of their office. Instead, I read all these comments jumping to his support indicating he is acting lawfully and as we want him to. That is, until he "votes his conscience" on something that removes or prevents some of the civil rights of the majority, then the people will be offended at his audacity to ignore their will.

What a joke. The emperor has no clothes and you're all pretending you see the fabric because you're naked too and don't want to admit it.