Forum

Sen. Toomey fails to represent voters

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Last Thursday, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) held a virtual town hall, his first town hall of any kind in four years. The town hall, announced to the public just an hour prior, was held in part as a response to the criticism that Toomey has not been available enough to his constituents. At least since his re-election to the senate last November, the senator’s phone and fax lines have been blocked, which was of particular frustration to Pennsylvanians during the close senate confirmations of Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet picks. A petition that has garnered over 26,000 signatures was even created to recall the senator, a process not actually possible, in Pennsylvania.

Toomey’s job as a governmental official for Pennsylvania is to represent the people of Pennsylvania. The preamble to the United States Constitution itself begins with the words “We the People of the United States...” It’s a phrase that sets the precedent for a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.In the creation of the American government, the Founding Fathers wanted to move away from the centralized governments of kings and queens that pervaded early modern Europe. It would be impractical and disorganized to have every single little decision made by the people with no real leaders, so the Founding Fathers chose to create a representative democracy, the key word being “representative”: members of the United States government are supposed to reflect and abide by the will of the people.

Representation is a job that Toomey has been neglecting along with his phone calls. Toomey can’t know the thoughts and feelings of Pennsylvanians without picking up the phone or holding frequent town halls and listening to them, and his senate votes reaffirm how out-of-touch with his constituents he really is. Even though Toomey won the 2016 election, he did so with less than a majority of the votes, only beating Democrat Katie McGinty by roughly one percentage point, which means that much of the state is far more liberal than he is. A swing state like Pennsylvania should not have a senator who can be described as “one of the most reliable Republican votes...a safe vote for the Republican party in Congress.” Toomey is supposed to represent the real values of Pennsylvanians, not advance his own agendas and the agendas of his donors.

Toomey should take a page out of the book of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is the epitome of representation. Throughout her years in government, Gillibrand has seamlessly adapted to the views of her current constituents. When Gillibrand was a member of the House of Representatives for a rural, conservative district in upstate New York, she played the part of a conservative, earning high ratings from the National Rifle Association and supporting George Bush’s fiscally conservative policies. Now that she’s a senator, representing the entire state of New York, including the highly liberal and highly populous area of New York City, she is one of the most far left members of the senate, most notably voting no on more Trump cabinet picks than any other senator. Gillibrand has reached a level of listening to and representing her constituents that other politicians should aspire to.

Pennsylvanians are mad about Toomey’s lack of accessibility, and rightfully so. No last-minute tele-town hall can make up for the fact that Toomey has been downright neglecting his constituents. His explanation for his constant unreachability, that out-of-staters have filled up his voicemail, is unsatisfactory. After all, there are many other Republican members of Congress who are surely also hearing their phones ring off the hook over every new Trump action, but none have had quite as much trouble keeping up as has Toomey. In six years when the senator is next up for re-election, Pennsylvanians should remember that they can do better.