It’s been in the news now for weeks. (or so it seems). Trent Lott’s unfortunate remarks, made off the cuff at Senator Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration. Will Trent take his seat as Senate Majority leader when the Senate convenes in January? Or will he join Newt Gingrich on the ash heap of history, just another victim of opportunistic politics by the Democratic Party and the major news media. My take? Trent’s toast.
I won’t pretend to know what was going through Senator Lott’s mind when he made his remarks. I doubt the remarks were racially motivated. In this day and age, he would have to be aware of what that would mean to him politically, (If he didn’t, he sure does now!) and he’s been around too long to make that sort of mistake. If they were racially motivated, they were certainly untenable. We as a society have moved away from the days when black folks had to watch their backs for a lynch mob in white sheets. The idea that Mr. Lott, in a moment of candor, feeling himself safe and secure around “like minded” (read Republican) folks just came out and spoke his heart is, I believe, ridiculous. And privately, I believe most Democrats would agree. But I could be wrong.
What I do know is that the issue has achieved a dimension only possible when the subject of the discussion is a Republican. Had Mr. Lott been a Democrat, we would no longer be discussing this issue, if it was even reported in the first place.
I heard an interesting comment made this Sunday on one of the “talking heads” programs. The guest, who was black, was commenting on how Senator Lott should step down. The reasoning? Because Mr. Lott, by his racially insensitive comments, had proven that he was incapable of representing everyone. Thus, because he obviously didn’t represent blacks, he should not only not accept the Speakership, but should resign from Congress as well.
Again, getting away from whether or not Mr. Lott’s comments were racially motivated, lets examine this argument, and what its adoption would mean for the future of our country.
First, it should be noted that it is not Mr. Lott’s job to represent everyone. Mr. Lott is a Senator. His job is to represent his State in the Senate. It is the Representatives job to represent their constituents. This distinction, which used to be more clear-cut, was blurred when the Constitution was amended to allow for direct election of Senators. Originally, Senators were appointed by their respective States. This idea that Senators are supposed to represent individuals is as twisted a reading of history as is the idea that we live in a Democracy, so prevalent today that it is even taught in public schools, when what we really live under is a Republic. The distinction is more than mere words.
Second, I would argue that it is simply not possible for anyone, Senator or Representative, to represent everyone in the sense that was meant by the guest on that show. His argument was that Mr. Lott, by his comments, is a Jim Crow segregationist. As such, he must hate black people, and therefore cannot possibly represent them in Congress. He will by his very nature, believing blacks to be inferior, always be moved to legislate against them whenever he gets the chance (a theory not supported by Mr Lott’s voting record). It would not even be possible for Mr. Lott to have an opinion that segregation might be beneficial without hating blacks, and therefore making himself unfit to lead. It simply isn’t possible for one to have an opinion on something and still be just to those on the other side.
This would seem to mean that in order for someone to represent everyone, he or she could not have a firm opinion on anything, since there is always someone on the other side of every issue. For example, I am a Christian. This means that I hold certain religious views on the divinity of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross for the sins of Mankind. Thus, by the preceding argument, I am obviously incapable of representing everyone, and should never be considered for a public position. Why? Well, what about Muslims, Atheists, Wiccans, or New Agers? Wouldn’t they feel threatened by me? How could I, as a Christian, possibly represent them? Remember the Crusades? The Salem witch trials? Obviously, I am unfit for the role of Senate majority leader
And, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon, how could I possibly even represent Christians, many of whom don’t even consider me to be one of their number! Wouldn’t I really be taking my orders from Salt Lake City? Wouldn’t I really secretly be trying to establish a Theocracy with my Church at the head? And since my Church defines marriage as a “union between a man and a woman”, denying the “right” of same-sex partners to practice their “alternative lifestyle” within the Church without being excommunicated, how could I possibly represent homosexuals? (Homosexuals can be members of the Church, but must remain celibate. Since they cannot marry, any sex they would engage in would be fornication, thus exposing them to excommunication.)
I must also admit that, like the majority of the population, I enjoy viewing “good looking” members of the opposite sex. (It must be true that the majority of people enjoy this. If you don’t believe it, look at who our favorite movie stars are. When was the last time you saw an ugly model on the cover of a magazine? Or on a TV ad?) Does this mean I could not represent “Uglo-Americans”? Or fat people? Or men?
I also prefer Miracle Whip to mayonnaise. And unlike George H. W. Bush, I do like broccoli, but only if it is stir-fried. And I don’t like cauliflower. So, would I be unfair to mayonnaise lovers? Those who prefer their broccoli raw? Or to the cauliflower industry?
Finally, how could I, by the definition presented, possibly represent everyone if I belong to a political party? How could I, as a Republican, possibly represent Democratic voters? Since my party’s political views and platform are different, even diametrically opposed on many issues, how could I represent Democrats in my state or district? Or Libertarians? Or Greens? Or Independents? Likewise, if my Representative is a Democrat, how can they represent me?
In truth, how can any one individual possibly represent “everyone”, if everyone including themselves has their own views on everything? In a freethinking society, it simply isn’t possible. It would only be possible if everyone were forced to have the same views on everything by the state. And even then, it would only be the outward view, for as has been demonstrated time and again, “die gedanken sind frei”. You might control what I say, but you can’t control what I think.
So how does a person with their own thoughts and opinions represent “everyone”? They don’t. They represent the rule of law.
They take an oath, when they take office, to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, quaint as that may seem. They are bound, ethically, to represent the people of their district and uphold the laws of their State and of the United States, no matter whether they agree with them or not. They may work to change laws they disagree with, but until those laws change, they are bound to uphold them as written. This is why character is an important consideration when we go to the voting booth, and why it is important that we learn as much as we can about the candidates and not just vote blindly. This is why it is important to get involved in the activities of our party, so that we can influence who the candidate will be that we will ultimately be voting for.
I have noticed that it is usually Democrats, not Republicans, who have this issue about not being fairly represented if the elected official expresses an opinion or makes a comment counter to one of their many constituency groups. Could it possibly be that their concern stems from a recognition that they would behave in such a manner if given a chance, and so, it must be that the Republican would behave likewise? If so, this would seem to indicate a lack of ethics on the part of Democrats, as well as a total disregard for the oath they take upon assuming office.
But then again, what else could be expected from someone who believes that the ends justify the means?
So, in the final analysis, I don’t know what was in Senator Lott’s mind when he made his now infamous comments. But even if he did mean what he said in the sense that the Democrat’s and the media insist he did, I would much rather live in a world where he was free to express such sentiments than the one expressed by the guest on the talking head show I watched on Sunday. I would much rather live in a world where the free expression of ideas, however repugnant, can be openly and freely discussed than one where no opinion whatsoever is allowed to be expressed under the fear of offending someone. I would much rather live in the world envisioned by our founding fathers, where freedom of speech is not only permitted but expected on all issues, than the world of politically correct “free speech” that we live in today.