110W7 Short Essay: Congressional Representation
Some of the different ways members of the congress can represent the American people include trustee representation, sociological representation, agency representation, and delegate representation. On one hand, a trustee representation occurs in cases were a representative has or assume independent autonomy to generate and oversee the passage of a bill on an issue of choice simply because of the trust of the people (Ezrow, 2010). Sociological representation occurs when a representative approaches their acts in the Congress in line with the best interests of his/her constituents of origin. Agency representation occurs when acts of a representative are inherently aimed at winning the trust and continued confidence of his/her constituents on him/her (Lowi et al., 2013). Representatives can also represent the people by committing in overseeing the putting together and passage of legislations based on public demand.
The underlying principle behind sociological representation is the view that people with shared backgrounds tend to be similar, in terms of their interests and expectations of the state. As such, by choosing a representative with similar backgrounds to the electorate, it is assumed that the representative will act in line with the best interests of his/her people (Lowi et al., 2013). A good example here is the case of the election or nomination representatives to represent minority groups in the Congress. On the other hand, an agency form of representation is founded on the proposition that an elected representative shall or is expected to act in the best interests of the electorate while in the Congress (Lowi et al., 2013).
Unlike with the case of sociological representation, the founding principle in agency representation is that failure by a representative to act in the best interests of his/her constituents negates his/her chances of being reelected during the next election (Ezrow, 2010). As a result, it is the norm for the people to make consulted effort in monitoring and evaluating the acts of their representatives to determine the extent that such reflect their interests and expectations (Lowi et al., 2013). A good example of agency representation is the case in which the people elect their representative based on their ideologies, rather than their backgrounds of origin.
The key difference between a trustee and a delegate is in the extent that a representative can assume autonomous authority in making legislative decisions on behalf of the people. This is clear in that a trustee is a representative who is accorded the ultimate authority by the people to act on their behalf in terms of generating and passing bills in the Congress (Lowi et al., 2013). On the other hand, however, a delegate, though a representative of the people, has his/her authority over the process of legislation limited to putting together legislative bills and voting on them in line with the voice of the constituents (Ezrow, 2010).
Based on the above discussion on the various possible forms of representation, it is in the author’s opinion that the agency model of representation is the best. This assertion is founded on the fact that this model not only eliminates the challenge of undue involvement of the people in the legislative process, but also provides checks and balances for forcing representatives to act in the best interests of the people (Lowi et al., 2013). As such, it eliminates the problems of undue trusting of a representative by the people which is common in sociological and trustee representation, while at same time addressing the problem of time and resource inefficiencies common with the delegate form of representation (Ezrow, 2010).
Ezrow, L. (2010). Linking citizens and parties: How electoral systems matter for political representation. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Lowi, T., Ginsberg, B., Weir, M., Tolbert, C., (2013). We the People. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.