March Rothenberg: Representatives and their misrepresentations

Santa Clarita resident Harry Reed asks Congressman Steve Knight a question during the town hall at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Members of the United States House of Representatives are elected to “represent” the residents of their congressional districts. At least, that’s what the Constitution tells us.

So why does it feel as if some of our representatives aren’t getting the message?

Case in point: Rep. Steve Knight, the Republican House member from California’s 25th Congressional District. That district – which stretches from Simi Valley in the west through a small corner of Porter Ranch in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, then into the Santa Clarita Valley and over the mountains into Palmdale and Lancaster – gave Hillary Clinton a 6.7 percent victory in November.

Based on that margin, statisticians tell us that Knight would be expected to vote with President Trump 46.8 percent of the time if he were actually trying to represent his constituents’ views.

Yet the respected website FiveThirtyEight.com reports that Knight has chosen to vote with President Trump 100 percent of the time.

In a visit to Knight’s Simi Valley office recently, constituents asked two of his staffers why his voting record doesn’t square with the wishes of citizens in his district, where registered Democrats now outnumber both Republicans and decline-to-state voters.

Their response: Knight’s voting record “isn’t how you should judge him.”

Really?

We send our “representative” to Congress to “represent” us. He chooses to vote against the preferences of his district’s largest voting bloc 100 percent of the time. And yet his votes aren’t how we should decide whether we’re being “represented”?

Rabbit hole, meet Alice.

On issue after issue, questions to Knight’s staffers received the classic Russian information warfare “active measures” treatment described by national security expert Malcolm Nance in his book The Plot to Hack America: deny, deceive, defeat.

On gun violence: one of his staffers assured us that Knight supports “background checks for everyone.”

“So he’s for universal background checks?”

“What do you mean by ‘universal’?”

“Everyone!”

Silence. For good reason, I suspect, since Knight’s 100 percent “positive” rating from the National Rifle Association suggests that he very likely doesn’t favor “background checks for everyone.”

On House Resolution 38 – which would amend federal criminal code to allow someone with a concealed carry permit in his own state to carry a handgun into another state that also allows concealed carry, as well as into school zones and into federally-owned lands open to the public, including our national parks – “That’s wrong. That legislation is being misrepresented in the press.”

Oh, yeah. I get it. Quoting the text of proposed legislation is just “fake news.”

On Knight’s own declaration at a district Town Hall in March that “President Trump should release his taxes,” after which he returned to Washington and voted with his GOP colleagues to table HR 305, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act: “You need to understand how Congress works.”

Umm, I do. I understand completely that, when my representative’s party controls the House, and he votes with his party to table a matter, he is voting to kill discussion – and thus avoiding having to take a vote at all.

I’m betting that’s the part of “how Congress works” that you’d rather I didn’t understand.

And it seems Steve Knight isn’t the only House member playing these games.

At a Town Hall in his district on April 12, constituents of Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-OK, told him that he should represent their views since they pay his salary.

His response? He denied being paid by the public he is elected to serve, calling that simple factual assertion “bullcrap!”

And in another Town Hall that same day – this one in Aurora, Colorado – constituents chastised GOP Rep. Mike Coffman for his failure to represent their views, telling him to “choose between us and Donald Trump.”

We the People are trying to tell you something, Messrs. Knight and Mullin and Coffman (and whoever else in Congress chooses to ignore his or her constituents). It’s a very simple concept.

You’re not paid by the Republican Party. You’re not paid by Donald Trump. You’re paid by us.

Which means that you work for us.

And it’s time you started voting accordingly.

If you don’t, we will.

 

 

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