(Comic) How Political Representation Works

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(Comic) How Political Representation Works

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TRANSCRIPT

 

A man is standing in front of the White House talking to an elephant and a donkey.
MAN
Hey guys. I’m thinking about running for Congress, but I’m a little confused about what the job
entails. Can you help me?
ELEPHANT
Sure. We’ve been doing this a long time and have the system worked out pretty well.
DONKEY
Streamlined even.
MAN
Here’s the thing. I want to get elected to represent my voters, but it seems like I’ll be passing laws
that affect the whole nation and sometimes the whole world. So how is that fair for all the people
from different states who didn’t vote for me?
ELEPHANT
We sort of have a “don’t ask. Don’t tell.” policy when it comes to that.
DONKEY
Don’t worry about it. What people don’t realize won’t hurt them.
MAN
What about this “S.O.P.A.” Bill that will effectively destroy free speech on the internet? That
was introduced by a congressman from Texas and has the whole world in an uproar…for good
reason?

ELEPHANT
Yeah, but the rest of the representatives in Congress could shoot the bill down…if we wanted
them to.
DONKEY
So the balance of power evens out in the end.
MAN
That’s a relief. So if people contact their congressmen and express their disapproval of a bill then
their congressman will have to represent their expectations?
ELEPHANT
No.
MAN
No?
DONKEY
No.
MAN
So what happens when a person sends a letter to their congressman? Doesn’t he or she read it and
then act on the wishes of their voters?
ELEPHANT
NO. An intern reads it and either throws it away or sends a canned response back.
DONKEY
…and then throws the voter’s letter away.
MAN
So congressmen are under no obligation whatsoever to represent their voter’s expectations?

ELEPHANT
No. The voters can elect someone else to take their place next election cycle if their
representatives’ actions don’t incidentally meet their voters’ expectations.
DONKEY
So congressmen have a strong incentive to represent their voters…or to keep them in the dark.
MAN
But if the representatives never act in the interest of the voters then couldn’t the representatives
get voted out perpetually while the voters never get what they want no matter who they vote in?
ELEPHANT
You’re oversimplifying things.
DONKEY
In reality, the voters get a lot of what they want…and a lot of what they don’t.
MAN
Surely there’s a law that says representatives can’t go back on their campaign promises though,
right?
ELEPHANT
Nah. That happens all the time.
MAN
Doesn’t that piss voters off?
ELEPHANT
Yeah. That’s why we groom our candidates to be as vague as possible in their campaign
promises.
MAN
When you get right down to it the voters really just have to hope their representatives…represent
them.

DONKEY
It never hurts to grease the wheels with massive campaign contributions.
ELEPHANT
You can also move to Washington D.C. and become a politician yourself or become a full-time
lobbyist. And really, if you don’t do that then you have no excuse for not having your views
represented.
MAN
…unless they want a life of their own, which is what I thought government was supposed to give
them. I just don’t see how congressmen can call themselves representatives when there’s no way
to hold them accountable to their voters, especially when they’re more or less on the payroll of
campaign donors and lobbyist who are doing everything they can to buy all the influence in the
government.
ELEPHANT
Well, it’s a good thing nobody asked you.
MAN
So what do you call a government where the people elect leaders who don’t represent their
interests?
ELEPHANT
I don’t know. Do you know what you call someone who speaks out against their leaders…
DONKEY
A terrorist!
MAN
So what are you going to do? Send me to Guantanamo Bay?
ELEPHANT
No. Once we pass the S.O.P.A. bill or something like it we’ll just stop you from being able to
spread your dissenting ideas.

DONKEY
Now if you’ll excuse us, our lobbyists are calling.

THE END

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