Delegate versus Representative

There are two schools of thought when it comes to American Democracy, one is that representatives, whether city, county or national; are elected as “delegates” to represent the constituency or as “trustees” to speak for the constituency. As the domestic benefits issue continues to manifest itself in the community collective, it is important that El Paso voters examine what type of representative it is that they elect.

A “delegate” type of representative is one that is elected to by the voters to represent the voters’ views before the legislative body. For example, in the domestic benefits issue, the vocal majority of voters have stated numerous times that their wish is that unmarried couples should not be allowed to receive city sponsored benefits. A “delegate” votes in favor of this point of view.

On the other hand, in the “trustee” type of representative, the representative is elected by the voters’ to listen to the constituency and then formulate their own opinion as to what is best for the community. Clearly, John Cook ascribes to the notion that he is a “trustee” when it comes to the domestic benefits issue. A “trustee” makes a decision based on their own opinion of what is good for the community, not what the vocal majority wants.

Each type of representative would argue that American democracy is best served by their notion of what type of representative it is that they are. In the domestic benefits issue, the “trustees’’ argue that they know what it is the community truly wants and needs regardless of the vocal majority’s stated wishes.

On the other hand, the “delegates” argue that they represent the will of the people, regardless of how it is they personally feel about it. City Representative Eddie Holguin best exemplifies this when he states that although he is against the citizen’s drive to do away with the domestic benefits, he nonetheless, is compelled to vote what the constituency has demanded.

There are many arguments for and against each type of representation most notably the issue of slavery in America. Those that ascribe to the notion of a “trustee”, like to point to this instance in history as an example of where the majority is wrong and it takes a “trustee” to represent the will of the downtrodden.  Unfortunately this argument ignores the basis by which freedom finally came for the American slaves.

War and many years of challenges against the vocal majority in the community was the reason that slavery was eventually deemed wrong in the community. A “trustee” did not make the change, although it can be argued that a “trustee” finally forced the issue that led to war. Although this may be true, the change did not come about until the silent majority finally rose and forced a public discussion on the issue.

That is the nexus to the problem for the minority if they are intent on making a change in the community, they must rise from being a silent minority to a vocal majority. This is first accomplished by organizing and participating in the process of government. If the silent minority feels discriminated against by the vocal majority then the solution is as simple as voting.

To rely on a “trustee” to right a wrong, ignores the fundamentals of a democracy, one in which people express their wants and needs through the electoral process by participating and electing representatives to represent their wants via “delegates” instead of “trustees”. To do otherwise only exacerbates a problem by changing the direction of the community each and every time another majority of likeminded “trustees” are elected.

To those supporting Byrd, Cook and Ortega for their actions in regards to the domestic benefits issue better note that their victory is subject to change in the next round of elections as a new slate of “delegates” may actually make their victory a bitter defeat that they may have to live with. For the El Paso voter, the most important question they can ask of their candidate is whether they are a “delegate” or a “trustee” representative. For Democracy to flourish in El Paso, “delegates” need not apply.