An elected representative who believes sincerely that his primary duty is to carry out the will of the voters should not be surprised when voters disagree with him when they believe he is in error. These points help to explain why the Republican Committee of Rappahannock County censured Denver Riggleman, representative of Virginia’s 5th District. The final approved censure resolution asserted that “Denver Riggleman has failed to represent the will of the constituents of Rappahannock County and has reneged on the promises and representations he made at the time of his nomination and election."
For the citizens in Virginia’s 5th District, the wide discrepancy between Riggleman’s stated commitments to the people who elected him and the policies he currently supports cannot be tolerated. The first complaint highlighted Riggleman’s votes for massive increases in the number of visas for the admission of foreign workers from the developing world to the United States, actions that reduce job opportunities for U.S. citizens and depress their wages.
The second involves Riggleman’s votes to support the war between Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s richest nations, against Yemen, one of the world’s poorest. The war has created a humanitarian crisisof gargantuan dimensions; 10 million people in Yemen confront starvation and disease.
Why is Mr. Riggleman acting against the wishes of the voters who elected him? Part of the explanation is Mr. Riggleman’s service on the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, also known as the House Banking Committee. It’s the committee that oversees the entire financial services industry, including the securities, insurance, banking and housing industries. The Financial Services Committee also oversees the work of the Federal Reserve, the Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Predictably, the financial, real estate and insurance industries contribute tens of millions of dollars to members of the Financial Services Committee.
In the November 2018 general election, Denver Riggleman defeated Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn, receiving 53 percent of the vote to Cockburn's 47 percent. At the time, no one in Virginia’s 5th District expected Mr. Riggleman to crusade against all the “pay-for-play” scamsthat are far too common inside the Washington D.C. beltway or to end all the nine illegal conflicts currently underway around the world. However, voters did not expect Riggleman to increase the numbers of foreign workers entering the country or to further entangle the American people in another Middle Eastern conflict that is both morally repugnant and destructive to U.S. strategic interests.
Americans are sick of conflict overseas. They are tired of committing American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to open-ended conflicts in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa without any tangible, concrete connection to American national interest. Surely, Mr. Riggleman is acutely aware of this widely held opinion in the 5th District. Working to end support for the Saudi war in Yemen, as well as the ongoing commitment of U.S. Forces in Syria and Afghanistan should be part of the positive work Mr. Riggleman can do to help his constituents in Virginia’s 5th District.
To this point, Mr. Riggleman’s story is a familiar narrative of contemporary American politics, an avocation based on the sale and promotion of promising ideas that the electorate will eagerly embrace, only to discover that they’ve been duped yet again. To this point, Mr. Riggleman has found it more rewarding to ignore the pledges he made in 2018.
Now it seems there is a challenger who has announced he will run against Mr. Riggleman for the Republican nomination. Is anyone surprised? When elected officials forget their constituents, this is what happens.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, a Ph.D. and the author of five books. His latest is “Margin of Victory" (Naval Institute Press 2016).