“Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. 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.
“My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments?
“To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience,–these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.” –Edmund Burke, addressing the electors of Bristol, 1774
Burke won that election but lost the next one (1780) for speaking hard truths to the voters of Bristol. For those of us saddened by the decision of Wyoming Republicans to reject Liz Cheney this week, Burke’s words – and his career – have great impact.
I will confess it was and is easier for me to admire Representative Liz Cheney than most of my fellow Americans. The war that has become fused with her family’s legacy (Gulf War II, a.k.a. the liberation of Iraq) is still one that I support. My list of disagreements with her, while existent, is far fewer than others. So seeing her lose probably hit me harder than most. That said, it was not a surprise – at all – and it says something very troubling about my former and her current (still) party.
The matter for which Liz Cheney gave her Wyoming constituents her “judgment” instead of “sacrific(-ing) it to your opinion” was (or should have been) a simple one: Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and revealed himself unfit for office by trying to stay in power and invalidate that election. That’s it. That’s the list.
For the Trumpenproletariat, any reminder that their false god was in fact rejected by the voters has become too injurious to their delicate sense of self; so they use their ballots and bandwidth to metaphorically stick their fingers in their ears and insist they can’t hear her.
To anti-anti-Trumpians – who can’t seem to see anything past over their internal hatred for their fellow Americans, the excuse is that Cheney “wouldn’t let it go” – never mind that the one person who clearly obsesses about the 2020 election more than Cheney – or anyone else – is the very man who demanded Wyoming Republicans reject her (Trump himself). They refuse to see the danger that Trump is, because their Republican friends and/or voters refuse to see it, and like Burke’s largely forgotten colleague, they prefer to make their will subservient.
But I would remind them that said colleague (Henry Cruger) has become an answer to a trivia question, while Burke has been elevated to the Godfather of Anglo-American conservatism, in no small part because of his willingness to do what so many of his supposed ideological descendants won’t – maintain the clearest conviction of judgment and conscience.
As a result, we are a weaker country than we were last week.