Assuring accountability: Holding the elected responsible


Zach Scott

In January 2020, senior Ramya Subramaniam advocated for education legislation in Washington DC. She talked with the staff of Senator Joni Ernst, Senator Chuck Grassley and former Representative Dave Loebsack.

Ramya Subramaniam, Student Life Editor

With new Congressional representatives taking office just over a month ago, people are looking forward to seeing what actions they will take. 

What most citizens fail to realize is they still have an indirect say on legislation. Once elected into office, Congress does not represent one party, but the entire country. Lately though, it seems that representatives are following whatever their party supports with little to no variation.

Many times during campaigning, candidates claim to support certain policies to get the vote of a specific demographic, but when they are seated, they do not follow through with their promises. As a representative of the people, politicians should still carry out the wishes of their citizens.

Senior Christina Li has noticed this pattern among many representatives. “I don’t really expect them to follow through with everything on their agenda as I know some of their policies are people pleasers for more party votes,” she said. This strategy helps many candidates get the votes they need to be seated in office.

Junior Lila Teitle thinks when people vote for a candidate, they choose someone who they believe will make decisions that represent them and their community. “Representatives must remember that they are elected as public servants and are meant to use their judgement to do what is best for their district and America,” she said.

Voting a candidate into office does not mean that the people have handed over complete power when making decisions. Though it may not have an immediate visible impact, calling out representatives on gaps in their agenda can keep them in check. 

Teitle believes that politicians are chosen to represent their constituents’ best interests. “If [representatives] are not fulfilling [their] responsibility, they should be held accountable in whatever way is appropriate,” commented Teitle.

Politicians have a big responsibility because they are making decisions on behalf of the citizens of the country. Constituents should make sure that these decisions are being made with care and thought. Holding representatives accountable reminds them who they are working for and representing.

Being an uninformed citizen is the biggest reason why politicians are able to get away with so much of their personal agenda. Citizens vote and blindly expect that the representatives will always do what’s in the best interest of the people. Because of this lack of accountability, politicians are easily able to push their own agendas in office. The best way to hold representatives accountable is by being a well-informed citizen.

Most people use the news to be up-to-date with daily occurings, but many times the news has bias and can skew what is actually happening. Many media sources are right or left leaning, so watching both sides or a more moderate news source will allow the people to form their own opinions on what is going on in the government.

Social media is another great source of information, however constituents should be wary; information can often be misleading. Following the representatives and their actions in government will allow constituents to know exactly what agenda their representative is following.

Additionally, with social media, citizens have the ability to voice their concerns on a larger platform. Since COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, social media activism has picked up pace. Bringing up issues that may have been hidden, voicing concerns and recognizing successes are ways constituents are getting involved in politics.

Social media has proved useful multiple times in the past to hold politicians accountable. When texts were leaked of plans for his family trip to Cancún, Texas Senator Ted Cruz was held accountable by his constituents, who were in the middle of a massive snow storm. His actions were made known by social media with pictures of him at the airport and posts detailing the event.

Li found out about Cruz’s actions through the media. “Ted Cruz was heavily criticized by the media and the public, but accountability will play out in the next elections,” she commented.

By spreading the word on social media, citizens made sure voters were informed about his actions for the next election. His decision to travel to Cancún was inappropriate especially when many Texans had no power and schools were shut down. The criticism Cruz faced made sure that he thought twice about his actions. He was held accountable by being caught leaving his citizens in havoc. 

Now, Cruz will have to be more careful about his actions in the future and make sure that he is able to serve his constituents to his best ability. Because of his misdoing, he has to please his constituents if he wants to be voted in next election. This is definitely something that Texans should take advantage of to make sure that Cruz supports the legislation they want.

Another not so well-known controversy was when California Governor Gavin Newsom was found in a restaurant with others outside his family, with no social distancing. The Californian governor placed strict coronavirus restrictions, so many were shocked to see him at the restaurant. Newsom has been very strict with COVID-19 restrictions, so his actions were hypocritical and gave a bad example of how to act during the pandemic.

Though he was criticized, this event was not covered as much as Cruz’s. “I didn’t see as much coverage about Governor Newsom breaking COVID restrictions, which makes me believe that there should have been more criticism and response from the public,” Li said.

One of the easiest ways to hold politicians accountable is by making their actions known. “No politician is above the law either, and they should not be protected from consequences simply because they hold a position of power,” Teitle commented.

Though Newsom apologized right away, his actions should have been discussed more. When there is more discussion, politicians know that their constituents are watching and care about what they do.

Student Voice

Students can also get involved in making sure that their representatives are doing as they had promised on their agenda. Reaching out to elected officials and setting up meetings is a great start. They do not hear from many students, so the few they hear from will be remembered. Though representatives themselves may not be able to meet, staff from their offices would be more than willing to. 

At these meetings, students should be prepared to discuss bills they want to see passed and initiatives they want their representatives to support. Students have personal experiences that some representatives haven’t had in over a decade or more. Reminding them of who they represent will make sure that they think twice before moving away from the promised agenda.

It’s important for young individuals to be involved in politics. Though most can’t vote, students will be able to gain media/political literacy skills and be better prepared for when they can vote in a few years.

 Staying informed and fighting for what’s right is crucial because students are the future of this nation. They should get involved in the government because if politicians see their constituents care, they will work to support policies that are in the best interest of the people.