Edmund Burke, Irish Statesman and political theorist, defined the role of an elected representative in a thesis he wrote in the 1700’s. For Burke, the elected officials could be one of two things, a delegate or mouthpiece for his constituency sent off from the countryside to the capital to speak the mind of the people. Or, Burke wrote, the representative should rather be a trustee, given a mandate to use his unbiased better judgement in the exercise of decision-making. Later political philosophers would add a third role, politico, which was a blend of both trustee and delegate. Interestingly, Burke, an elected official himself, ascribed to the trustee role, and was cast out of office at the next election.
It is Monday, January 23, 2017. Last Friday, Donald Trump took the oath of office to be President of the United States. On Saturday, in Washington, D.C. and in sister marches around the United States and around the world, women took to the streets to demand their voices be heard. They wore pink pussy hats. They carried signs. They sang and shouted. Some say this was the largest public demonstration in our country’s history.
It had to happen. For the first time in US history a woman represented a major political party. That woman got 3 million more votes than Mr. Trump and yet she did not win. In the largest democracy in the world, our voices were not heard. We know that women’s reproductive rights are in jeopardy. Equal pay for equal work is still not a reality. Sexual assault continues to rise and rape kits stack up on the shelf, never to be examined.
Those women in those streets, in those hats, will stay active. A nerve has been touched and they will demand change up ticket and down. If you were one of those proud women or wish you had been, here are a few ways you can exercise oversight:
- Know the issues important to you and what ones are coming up for votes
- Get to know your state legislator, mayor, boards of education, supervisors, county commissioners
- Follow their voting patterns
- Show up at their events and ask questions
- Use Social Media or letters to contact officials
- Solicit contributions to support candidates
- Create an Accountability Circle of like-minded folks to discuss issues
- Reach out and involve family and youth
- Think about running for office
If you have any suggestions on how to stay active, feel free to comment.