The trustee model of representation refers to such a model of a representative democracy in which the trustees, who are the elected representatives of their constituency, are granted autonomy in decision-making. In other words, their actions might contradict the will of the constituents. In contrast to the trustee model of representation, in the delegate model, the representatives are bounded by the views of their constituents.
The critical idea of the trustee model of representation discussed in Russells article is that when the constituency elects a representative is already means that it trusts him. Russel shows that in some cases, people, in contrast to their representatives, are unable to calculate the long-term consequences of their will (Russel 5). The arguments in favor of the delegate model of representation claim that representatives were elected to “reflect purposively the preferences of their constituents” and, therefore, are not allowed to act independently (McCrone and Kuklinski 278).
One of the most famous cases, when the president defied public opinion in the exercise of the duties, is the war in Vietnam under the administration of Lyndon Johnson. Even though the public support of this war was low for a wide variety of reasons, President Johnson and the Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara were not intended to de-escalate the conflict and move towards peace. The historical experience shows that the war indeed turned into a failure because of the severe losses. The case of the Vietnam War shows that it would be better to take public opinion into account.
It might be argued that people are not qualified or educated enough to participate in politics by expressing their opinion. Nonetheless, such an opinion seems to contradict the fundamental idea of democracy. Politicians are the servants of the people, and when creating laws for them, they should pay attention to what people think. Therefore, I believe that better laws for the US citizens will stem not from the trustee model but the delegate model of representation.
McCrone, Donald J., and James H. Kuklinski. “The delegate theory of representation.” American Journal of Political Science, vol. 23, no. 2, 1979, pp. 278-300.
Russell, Matthew. “Trustee or Delegate: A Legitimate Question Facing Political Representation.” Student Research Briefing Series, vol. 2, no. 2, 2012, pp. 1-27. Web.