Fortunately, the National Security Administration is still in business and can continue to listen in on my conversations with Jack and Jill, the two forlorn mules living in Montana or Canada — I get those places mixed up — and can read my emails from those brave souls in Ethiopia or Estonia — I get those places mixed up, too — who are trying to sneak millions of dollars out of the country and need my help and my bank account number.
Which brings me to the current 11th District Congressional race — see how easy I make these transitions? It’s a gift — I get amused at the promises the candidates are making about how they will go to Washington and change things if we will elect them to Congress. Horse feathers. We know better than that and they do, too. The ones we have already sent there haven’t made much of a dent in a dysfunctional political process being held hostage by special interest groups. Whoever we elect next November won’t, either. In fact, other than Bob “I Feel Strongly Both Ways” Barr, who served four terms in Congress, it will be two years before the Speaker of the House knows their name.
What our current candidates need to remember as they promise to make the federal government run smoother than a Swiss clock is that they will get booted out of office quicker for poor constituent service than for their political positions.
If you call your representative’s office to get some help with your Social Security check or a passport and your representative doesn’t respond quickly and efficiently, it really doesn’t matter how much they know about the International Monetary Fund or that Wolf Blitzer has them on speed dial; chances are you won’t vote for them again and you will tell all your neighbors how you were treated. It also reinforces the negative perception of our members of Congress being out-of-touch with We the Unwashed.
We will put up with a lot of pontificating from our politicians on everything from Obamacare to abortion, but when we call them they had better be ready to help us. A lot of that depends on how well-trained their staff is in constituent services and what kind of priority it has in the member’s office.
In my more than two decades of dealing with the U.S. Congress, I can cite a number of examples of prominent politicians — including several members of the Georgia delegation — who forgot the importance of constituent service and were sent packing. I remember one prominent senator from a Midwestern state crying on television because he had been rejected by the voters. He was bigger than a bread box in international affairs, but he forgot to do the small things back home. Political positions are important to us but the ability to help us cut through the bureaucracy and red tape that is our federal government is what will keep a member of Congress on the job.
Fletcher Thompson was a young Republican Congressman representing the Tri-Cities area of Atlanta when the GOP could have held their annual conventions in a phone booth. As my mother was preparing to retire, she discovered she could not get Social Security because of a bureaucratic error on the government’s part. No amount of phone calls from my mother or from me made a particle of difference. We felt helpless. In desperation, I called the congressman and asked for his intervention. The next day, a contrite bureaucrat contacted us to say they had managed to work the problem out. Go figure.
I read with interest Mr. Thompson’s letters regarding the happenings of the Cobb EMC in the MDJ. I think back to when he was our representative in Congress. I can’t recall what positions he took on the burning issues of those days. It didn’t matter. I just remember that when my mother needed his help, he came through immediately. She would have voted for him if he had proposed putting a pig’s face on a quarter. I would have, too.
So when you hear the promises our candidates in the 11th District are making about the impact they will have when we send one of them to Washington to represent us, look past all the smoke-blowing and ask yourself who you think can best help you when you need them. That is who you want representing you in the 11th District.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.