Thursday, February 27, 2014

Up Close and Personal with a State Lawmaker

By Hope Steffensen

I recently participated in something new at the UT Dallas. In my Honors State and Local Government, we held the inaugural session of “Meet Your Lawmakers,” a class session completely dedicated to being up close and personal with the people crafting the legislation in the political culture we are studying.

Our guest was Texas State Representative Van Taylor. He has served two terms as a state representative for Plano, and he is currently running unopposed for State Senate Seat 8. UT Dallas is well within District 8, so we had a wonderful opportunity to talk to our future state senator.

I was curious about how the session would go. Rep. Taylor is a Tea Party favorite, and he has a reputation for being difficult and “stand-offish” in congressional sessions. However, I doubted he would come across as disagreeable in a presentation to college students, so I literally had no idea what to expect.

When Rep. Taylor began to talk to us, I was not the only one who was somewhat surprised. As one of my classmates put it later, “Representative Taylor was quite soft-spoken.” He gave us a brief three minute introduction about himself, outlining his overseas service in the Marines, his Harvard Business Degrees, and his legislative success in making it easier for overseas military members to vote. Then, he opened up the floor for the rest of the class for an extended question and answer session.

It was definitely a treat. My professor, Dr. Dow, asserted later that it isn’t often that politicians allow so much freedom of discussion. They don’t want to risk being “caught off guard” by a random question.
I especially appreciated his candor in answering my question. I inquired about the importance of personal interaction between legislators. I was curious how a man with a reputation for not being a “team player” would answer that. How he answered, was interesting and insightful to the entire class, my professor included.

He responded with a theory of governance referred to as the “Independence Mandate Theory of Representation.” In this theory, voters select a person based on their ideology. The political actor acts independently, believing his constituents tacitly support it since they elected him. And if constituents don’t support his legislative action, as Rep. Taylor put it, “Vote me out.” For Rep. Taylor, the most important personal interaction is with the constituents and representing them in the Texas Legislature.

It was a breath of fresh air in the realm of politics to engage in such candid conversation with a politician. Even though Rep. Taylor has ideals that are largely divergent from the more liberal, traditional college student, the conversation we had with him as a class was marked with both civility and honesty. That’s definitely unique in modern political conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment