For more than 200 years, there has been a great debate about whether elected representatives should be trustees for the whole nation or delegates for the constituents of their district or State.
This democratic dilemma -- small "d" -- is now vividly on display as a group of centrist senators determine the final shape of health care reform, indeed decide whether there will be health care reform at all.
None is in a more precarious position as "delegate" than Blanche Lincoln, Democratic senator from Arkansas. She is the only one of the moderates up for re-election next year, and she is facing thunder on the right and on the left in her home state, which voted overwhelmingly for John McCain last year (59% to 39%).
One of the most famous statements of the trustee ideal (at least if you took government courses in college) is Edmund Burke's speech to the electors of Bristol, England in 1774. After he had won his seat, he rejected the position, taken by his opponent, that representatives should follow instructions from their constituents.
"...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.....But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, to any set of men living....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.
"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors, from different and hostile interests....but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole....the general good, resulting from the reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament."
Similarly, in the equally famous Federalist Number 10, James Madison, evoking the trustee ideal, argued 15 years later that the republican form of government envisioned by the new Constitution would avoid the "violence of faction" by electing representatives from a broad, diverse cross-section of citizens. Such representatives to the national government will be those
"whose wisdom may best discern the best interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporal or partial considerations.....The Federal Constitution forms a happy combination....; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures."
Yet, Madison and Hamilton also argued that, by having many different voices and interests represented in the halls of government (the delegate concept) and mediated through the system of checks and balances, no single factional interest could dominate and compromises for the public good would be necessary.
Which brings us back to Ms. Lincoln, a person who describes herself as delegate from her State, not trustee of the nation. In determining her position on the health care bill, she has been quoted as saying: "I think what is most important for me is to take a look at what is presented on behalf of Arkansans and figure out whether it is something that really makes sense. I am responsible to the people of Arkansas, and that is where I will take my direction." Her official Senate biographical page notes that her tenure has been marked by "a fierce loyalty to the people of Arkansas and their shared values."
Her record since her 1998 election to the Senate (55%-42%) and her 2004 re-election (56%-44%) has been moderate, sometimes leaning left, sometimes right (support of Iraq war, the Bush tax cuts and limits on late-term abortions).
In the health care debate, Senator Lincoln has expressed opposition to the "public option" and is concerned about the bill's inability to stop rising health care costs. But, as a member of the Senate Finance Committee she supported health subsidies to extend health coverage to millions as well as protections from insurance denial for those with pre-existing conditions.
Her problem today is that she is running 6-8 points behind the leading Republican challenger; she has been targeted by the Republican Senatorial campaign as vulnerable; her approval ratings have slumped; and one or two Democrats may challenge her in next year's primary if she obstructs health care reform. Some Arkansas polls show a majority in the state opposing the health care reform bill. Recall: she was the last of the 60 votes needed recently just to let the health care debate proceed in the Senate.
So the dilemma for her is excruciating---and the threat to her party's priority program is palpable. Will she put her finger to the home state wind and, in the end, decide what is the best way to be the Arkansas delegate (and get re-elected)? Or will she be willing to be the 60th vote to stop the filibuster (acting as trustee) and help enact landmark legislation, even if the bill up on final vote does not meet her home state political needs or even every one of her requirements?
Of course, people might say, she has to do what is necessary for her constituents to get re-elected. But it worth remembering that, in the past, senators have voted as trustees of the nation even though they knew it meant certain defeat at the polls. A young senator from Massachusetts wrote a book in the mid-50s about such statesmen. It was called Profiles in Courage.
It told the stories of men like John Quincy Adams who supported President Jefferson's 1807 embargo against Great Britain in retaliation for British aggression against the American merchant fleet even though the embargo was extremely unpopular in Massachusetts. Adams resigned from the Senate after a storm of protest in 1808. Or Thomas Hart Benton, senator from Missouri, who opposed the introduction of slavery in new territories, even though his was a slave-owning state. He lost his seat in the 1850s. Or Edmund Ross, senator from Kansas, who opposed the Radical Republicans in his own party and voted against impeaching Andrew Johnson for removing Edward Stanton as secretary of war (and proponent of harsh treatment of the South) contrary to a law (later declared unconstitutional) preventing the president from removing cabinet officers without Senate consent.
So, as we watch the Senate end game on health care over the next few weeks, we will not just be observing the fate of the hallmark domestic initiative of the Obama Administration. We will also be witness to the latest act in the timeless drama of the democratic dilemma---elected representative as trustee or delegate---which has been playing out since our nation was born.
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A post-script. Edmund Burke was true to his principles. Four years after his famous "electors" speech, he supported more free trade with Ireland. This outraged his constituents in Bristol, a trading center that benefited from the status quo. This, and other principled positions, led him to withdraw from the Bristol election in 1780 and accept a "safe" parliamentary seat in a "rotten borough" controlled by an aristocratic patron where he served until 1794. A principled position but a soft landing in an undemocratic jurisdiction.
Ben Heineman Jr. is is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and at the Harvard Law School's Program on Corporate Governance. He is the author of High Performance With High Integrity.
Some fans are complaining that Zack Snyder’s envisioning of the Man of Steel is too grim—but it’s less a departure than a return to the superhero’s roots.
Since the official teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted online in April, fans and critics alike have been discussing the kind of Superman Zack Snyder is going to depict in his Man of Steel sequel. The controversy stems from Snyder’s decision to cast Superman as a brooding, Dark Knight-like character, who cares more about beating up bad guys than saving people. The casting split has proved divisive among Superman fans: Some love the new incarnation, citing him as an edgier, more realistic version of the character.
But Snyder’s is a different Superman than the one fans grew up with, and many have no problem expressing their outrage over it. Even Mark Waid, the author of Superman: Birthright (one of the comics the original film is based on), voiced his concern about Man of Steel’s turn toward bleakness when it came out in 2013:
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
19 Kids and Counting built its reputation on preaching family values, but the mass-media platforms that made the family famous might also be their undoing.
On Thursday, news broke that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the Duggar family's 19 children, had, as a teenager, allegedly molested five underage girls. Four of them, allegedly, were his sisters.
The information came to light because, in 2006—two years before 17 Kids and Counting first aired on TLC, and thus two years before the Duggars became reality-TV celebrities—the family recorded an appearance on TheOprah Winfrey Show. Before the taping, an anonymous source sent an email to Harpo warning the production company Josh’s alleged molestation. Harpo forwarded the email to authorities, triggering a police investigation (the Oprah appearance never aired). The news was reported this week by In Touch Weekly—after the magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the police report on the case—and then confirmed by the Duggars in a statement posted on Facebook.
Advocates say that a guaranteed basic income can lead to more creative, fulfilling work. The question is how to fund it.
Scott Santens has been thinking a lot about fish lately. Specifically, he’s been reflecting on the aphorism, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.” What Santens wants to know is this: “If you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat?”
Santens is 37 years old, and he’s a leader in the basic income movement—a worldwide network of thousands of advocates (26,000 on Reddit alone) who believe that governments should provide every citizen with a monthly stipend big enough to cover life’s basic necessities. The idea of a basic income has been around for decades, and it once drew support from leaders as different as Martin Luther King Jr. and Richard Nixon. But rather than waiting for governments to act, Santens has started crowdfunding his own basic income of $1,000 per month. He’s nearly halfway to his his goal.
Why agriculture may someday take place in towers, not fields
A couple of Octobers ago, I found myself standing on a 5,000-acre cotton crop in the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, shoulder-to-shoulder with a third-generation cotton farmer. He swept his arm across the flat, brown horizon of his field, which was at that moment being plowed by an industrial-sized picker—a toothy machine as tall as a house and operated by one man. The picker’s yields were being dropped into a giant pod to be delivered late that night to the local gin. And far beneath our feet, the Ogallala aquifer dwindled away at its frighteningly swift pace. When asked about this, the farmer spoke of reverse osmosis—the process of desalinating water—which he seemed to put his faith in, and which kept him unafraid of famine and permanent drought.
No police officers will serve time for the November 2012 shooting death of two unarmed black civilians.
On November 29, 2012, police officers and witnesses heard what appeared to be gunshots coming from a car driving near a police station in Cleveland. A high-speed car chase ensued, drawing in over 100 officers on duty, before the police managed to corner the car. Thirteen police officers then fired 137 rounds of ammunition at the vehicle, whose occupants Cleveland police suspected were armed. After the other officers stopped firing, 31-year-old Michael Brelo climbed on top of the hood of the suspect’s car and fired 15 more rounds at close range. When the shooting stopped, the car’s occupants, 43-year-old Timothy Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams, were dead. Both were unarmed. The “gunshot” witnesses heard turned out to be a backfiring car.
In any case, people have probably heard the phrase in reference to something gone awry at work or in life. In either setting, when the shit does hit the fan, people will tend to look to the most competent person in the room to take over.
And too bad for that person. A new paper by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado looks at not only how extremely competent people are treated by their co-workers and peers, but how those people feel when, at crucial moments, everyone turns to them. They find that responsible employees are not terribly pleased about this dynamic either.