Members of the House of Representatives and Senate who are appointed by the public to represent their interests in those bodies are called trustees and instructed delegates. Both trustees and instructed delegates play different roles of governmental representatives according to their model. While an instructed delegate makes decisions on the basis of points view of voters, a trustee is driven by their own expert opinion.
Republics and democracies are based on the direction of the people, as opposed to monarchies and dictatorships, which endow an individual with limitless power. However, in a pure democracy, the power is concentrated in the hands of public or public representatives, enabling them to take active participation in decision-making on behalf of the public. In a republic, on the other hand, the supreme power is concentrated solely in the hands of representatives. Thus, there is a correlation between governmental representation and the governmental system since one constitutes another.
Nevertheless, there are several characteristics of the representation models which need to be considered. A trustee is an individual who must be trusted since people will rely on this person and his decisions. However, a trustee has the right to vote according to his points of view instead of considering the opinions of the people (Leighley and Oser 331). Though the decisions are made by a trustee alone, this practice is wholly agreed upon. A trustee is “inclined to act according to their personal views”, meaning this is expected from the elected body while they hold the office (Esaiasson and Holmberg 71). According to trustees’ responsibilities, they should spend time analyzing various problems at hand, searching for solutions that would lead to the best outcomes and satisfy the needs of all parties involved. These situations lead to a lot of pressure, making a trustee obligated to fulfill the obligations, speak on behalf of all constituents, and avoid conflicts of interest.
On the other hand, the instructed-delegate theory of representation is a form of governance that focuses on the public’s interests first. According to the responsibilities of delegates, these elected bodies should regularly communicate with the constituents and “mirrors the belief” of the public (Rekhi 2). However, this could lead to the prevalence of power in the hands of the majority due to communication with a minor part of the people who are being represented. The delegates are also challenged with balancing the needs of the majority as well as the interests of influential groups and parties.
In case of failure to fulfill obligations, the constituents have the right to fire the representative and find a substitute by taking votes in the election process. This way of operating implies a strong connection between representatives and constituents, reinforcing productive work and setting policy matters (Rekhi 2). Therefore, each member of Congress is expected to perform the identical outcomes, however, with different approaches which would suit the public best.
Hence, trustee and instructed-delegate model of governmental representation are both focused on representing and serving the public. However, trustees are empowered by the public to make decisions on the basis of their points of view. On the other hand, instructed-delegates must take voters’ opinions into consideration. In my opinion, the instructed-delegate type of representative is more reliable since they comply with the opinions of general public, whereas trustees must make decisions based solely on their own opinion. A more democratic approach to problem-resolution seems advantageous.
Esaiasson, Peter, and Sören Holmberg. Representation from above: Members of parliament and representative democracy in Sweden. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
Leighley, Jan E., and Jennifer Oser. “Representation in an era of political and economic inequality: How and when citizen engagement matters.” Perspectives on Politics, vol.16, no.2, 2018, 328-344.
Rekhi, Noor. “The Delegate Model and The McCarthy Debacle: On Whether McCarthyism was a Response to Perceived Public Opinion.” The International Young Researchers’ Conference, 2021, 1-8.