Rep. Karen Bass of the 37th District of California has decided not to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration, and she decided to do so by that most twenty-first-century of methods: she conducted a poll on social media.
“After receiving an overwhelming response on the twitter [sic] poll,” she wrote, “I’ve decided not to attend the inauguration of President-elect Trump.” Overwhelming the response indeed was: out of nearly 13,000 votes, “No” received 84 percent.
There is something deeply unbecoming about this behavior, a kind of childishness unsuitable for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Of course, nothing in our law binds Bass to attend Friday’s political ceremony—other than quiet dignity and civic integrity, both of which she seems to lack to some degree. As a matter of dictum she need not go, though as a matter of form it would be better if she did.
It is, in any case, a cowardly and evasive trick to outsource your grumpy political petulance to several thousand anonymous Twitter “voters.” But it is perhaps more offensive to dress it up under the guise of representative government. “I want to hear directly from my constituents!” she wrote, as if she could possibly verify the identity of any of her Twitter “voters,” and as if the results of a tweet poll should guide the good sense of an elected representative of the United States.
Here is a gentle suggestion for Bass: if your own politics are so empty and craven that you can’t even make up your own mind over whether you should attend a presidential inauguration, if you have to slough off the blame for your own vain behavior onto the anonymous identities of thousands of Internet users, then please, for goodness’s sake, get out of government and do something else.
Our country does not need this type of political circus. We have enough indignities to contend with. We have suffered under eight years of Barack Obama’s scandal-ridden federal government; we came within a hairsbreadth of electing a corrupt, pay-for-play career crony politician to the head of the executive branch; and the fellow we elected in her stead is a clueless man-child who will almost surely sully this country and its government even further.
In times like these, we might look to the House of Representatives for a quiet, simple kind of nobility, a sort of plebian regality befitting the delegates of our free society. We do not need a clown-show of cowardice and political theater. “Your representative,” said Edmund Burke, “owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
In the end, Bass need not go to Friday’s inauguration. But she might still consider conducting herself with at least a bit of the propriety appropriate to her position in our government.