By Paul Gable
Since voting to impeach President Donald Trump last week, 7th Congressional District Rep. Tom Rice has heard a rising wave of voices calling for him to resign or be defeated at his next election in two years.
Various local and state Republican organizations have run the gamut from strong denunciations of Rice’s vote to outright calls for the Congressman to resign immediately. The overriding theme of these statements is that Rice’s vote to impeach fails to represent the wishes of the voters in his Congressional district.
Stories and interviews about the Rice vote on both traditional media and social media venues have drawn a ratio of negative to positive comments about his vote to impeach of approximately 80% – 20%.
It is fair to say Rice has drawn more attention and comment about this one vote that he has in total about the rest of the eight years he has been in Washington.
One rumor being passed around the county is that Rice made a deal with the Democratic leadership in the House to vote for impeachment in exchange for funding for Interstate 73.
I find that one pretty far-fetched as the Democrats had the votes necessary to impeach Trump without Rice. Why make a deal like that for a vote when you already control the majority? Nevertheless, such is the type of frenzied comment that arises in today’s fractured political climate.
What is interesting is the absolute silence that has been heard from all the local politicians who used to flock to Rice events for photo ops with the Congressman when he was in town. Why aren’t Reps. Heather Ammons Crawford, Russell Fry and Case Brittain at least defending Rice’s right to vote as his conscience dictates on this or any issue?
Brittain gushed gratitude when he received Rice’s endorsement in the special election for the statehouse seat he won last summer. No defense for the man he was so happy to have on his side then or, conversely, no outcry as his constituents have voiced?
Former Rep. Alan Clemmons did express much “disappointment” at Rice’s vote. It was Clemmons’ resignation from his statehouse seat five weeks after he won the Republican primary for a tenth term in Columbia that opened the door for the special election that Brittain won.
This current criticism of the Rice vote entails a question of the philosophy of representative government nearly 350 years old. Do we elect politicians to be delegate representatives or trustee representatives? A delegate representative is expected to vote exactly as the majority of constituents dictate while a trustee representative uses logic and experience in addition to considering the wishes of those he represents when casting a vote on any issue.
Rice obviously acted as a trustee representative for the 7th Congressional District when he voted to impeach the president. His constituents apparently expected delegate representation from him on the issue of impeachment and may vote him out of office in two years because of their dismay.
Rice took a stand whether the majority of his constituents like it or not. Those we send to Columbia prefer to hide behind a cloak of silence.