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In the private feedback I received after the “You Go, Girls!” article, a reader commented that not all the women in Congress voice opinions to be admired. I agree. My being female doesn’t guarantee that I’ll agree with and/or endorse just any woman. When I was in college for my Bachelor’s degree many, many years ago, an issue arose that involved understanding the point of view of the African-American minority. The professor turned to the only African-American in the class. “So, what do Black people think about this?” he asked. Oddly, the single example of the racial category responded. She was on the spot.
No single member of an arbitrary category of human beings can speak for all the other human beings in that category. One woman cannot speak for all other women. I would guess that Lindsay Lohan and I probably don’t agree all the time. We voters supposedly elect representatives who reflect the viewpoints of most of their constituents—us. Democracy is supposed to be majority rule with attention to the needs of minority populations, as well. We, the people.
What are the opinions of the voters? Not all voters take the time and trouble to discover whether their chosen candidates are a good fit for them and their needs. We don’t all have the same needs. To complicate the situation further, every election we hear that certain candidates were elected as a protest or message to the previous office holders, their parties, or even the President. Whether protest voting is a fruitful way to indicate displeasure can be seen in the results those newly elected officials eventually do or do not produce. But let’s say a representative does follow majority opinion. Even the carefully collected and faithfully reflected opinions of the majority cannot agree with the opinions and choices of every individual. We aren’t all alike.
A final, serious question is do all the elected representatives represent? (We know the answer to this one!) Some of us would say that there are always representatives in both houses of Congress who not only don’t accurately reflect the people in their districts or states, but who can also express the opposite of majority positions—for their own reasons or in service to their own agendas or the agendas of their backers. Luckily for them, the people they represent sometimes don’t pay enough attention to know what’s happening. Non-representatives can be re-elected, regardless.
As much as I wish women were magically endowed with the ability to always do the right, best thing, I’m not that silly. What I admire about the women’s group in Congress is that they are willing to talk about governance instead of forever being isolated by party. Does the conversation invariably produce superior legislation? Probably not. Sometimes, it’s no more than talk. The good part is they’re talking about what’s best. It’s what we wish all members of Congress would be willing to do—as a first step to doing what’s best.