A philosophical question

To wit: Does a political officeholder have an obligation to work for policies supported by a large majority of her/his political party?

Related questions: How substantial does the majority have to be? And what if the officeholder opposes said policy?

From the general to the specific: This week, VTDigger published the results of a statewide survey on gun issues. It found 57% of respondents agree with requiring permits for carrying a concealed weapon. 39% were opposed, and 4% did not answer.

A pretty significant majority, and kind of a surprise in a state where gun control is believed to be political poison.

But, for purposes of my question, the more pertinent result is that 80% of Democrats are in favor of concealed-carry permits.

That’s quite a lot. And this poll, conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute, appears to meet current standards for professional quality: a statistically significant 682 interviews were conducted by phone, with a margin of error at the usual 4% plus or minus. Also, 13% of them involved voters who use cellphones, which would seem to minimize the potential bias in a landline-only survey.

I think it’s fair to say that the 80% figure puts my philosophical question directly before our top political leaders, who generally oppose any gun control measures. I don’t attempt to answer the question, but I believe it must be asked.  

26 thoughts on “A philosophical question

  1. …question of the nature of “representative democracy.” I think the short answer is “no,” but it really depends on the officeholder, how they see their role, and how they presented themselves to the voters.

    For my part, if I were in there and under the current circumstances, I’d have a hard time imagining voting for most gun control measures, despite the strong feeling among partisans. I’d certainly listen, talk – I appreciate where folks are coming from, certainly. But it would rub up against a handful of core principles, and I’d have to simply respond with a “sorry, I’m not that guy.” Could circumstances change enough to change my mind? No doubt, but its pretty unlikely, realistically speaking. Voters within my party would have to make their decision to re-elect me with that in mind, and against the backdrop of all the other issues (as well as performance).

    But I can also imagine somebody getting elected on a platform of being certain to follow constituents’ views on issues, even if those views conflict with his/her own. I think somebody who gets elected under those terms has a different ethical responsibility. In general, though, we are electing individuals, not pollster-proxies.

  2. IF and a big IF they made the promise in the campaign, they are in for the pound and the penny.

    I think the issue is really a diversion–the assumption is that fewer folks having a gun in their pocket will decrease the incident of gun violence in Vermont.  

    Very little of the violence perpetrated is a result of concealed carry.  Most of it is due to knee-jerk  action by persons of diminished mental capacity or pissed off folks who go home and come back with something – or frankly, COPS who pee their pants and shoot someone at the first opportunity they get.  Unarmed citizens simply should not be shot with the availability of alternative control mechanisms and the “I will not go in until my three backups arrive”  mindset.  Game wardens who are out in the middle of nowhere with clearly armed citizens don’t have this issue, why should local PD?

    Vermont has a system of laws that seem to be working well mostly because of the people who fall under their regulation.  Please point to a situation where having a permit in your pocket would have changed anything.

    Bottom line is that it is not the responsibility of the legislator to react to the whim of the survey taking crowd mentality.   Laws NEED to be contemplative things due to their permanence in society.  

    We govern by legislative action, not by survey.  and that is a two edged sword.

  3. Debating gun control is like debating theology. Everybody starts with the same sacred writ, be it the bible, koran, torah, U.S. constitution, or state constitution. Then each person interprets off in a different direction until multiple incompatible conclusions have been reached.

    Then everyone gets pissed off and starts ranting about how obvious it is that their interpretation is right. This is also when the ad homenim attacks begin.

    By the way, I am impressed by how civil this comment stream is so far.

    If the polling keeps coming in at 80%, then over time a representative who feels otherwise should start to question 1) how big an issue it is in relation to all others, and 2) if it is large in relation to all others, a core party platform issue, then should he/she remain a member of the party? No knee jerk reaction to a single poll on a single issue, but an ongoing weighing of priorities.

  4. I recommend this link: https://law.justia.com/cases/v… , which includes the text of the Duranleau case or another link that gives the text of the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Duranleau case.

    The Duranleau link in your sig. leads to a commercial site that paraphrases the case and then asks for a money to access a public document that is available from other sources.

    The Court’s decision does include the sentence

    “The language of Article 16 does not suggest that the right to bear arms is unlimited and undefinable”

    so I do not mean to suggest that your sig. line is–in any manner misleading–it is an accurate quote.

  5. I find using “gun owners” as part of the so-called mix whenever these polls are taken really does nothing to contribute to the actual facts re issue.

    All involved in the debate know “gun owners” are prized whenever voice is added to bolster the cred of the anti-RKBA.

    Feinstein is or claims to be a “gun owner”.  

  6. Weird.


    Theoretically there is power to ‘vote the bums out’. But once entrenched in the current system I don’t see that vein viable on a national level. Maybe state. Certainly in some cases citywide.

    I don’t expect a rep to agree with everything I believe. But in general, alignments should be more aligned, than less.  

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