Do members of the United States Congress ever stop and consider what their legacies might be upon leaving office?
In other words, what did they do while there? Did they help to preserve the Union? Is the district or state that elected them better off than before they went to Washington? Did they once cross the aisle and vote against their political party line on something of value to the taxpayers?
Or, will they be recalled simply as louses who occupied a chair and were paid handsomely for just being present when the roll was called?
Can we truthfully say that very many of the current crop of 535 (100 senators and 435 representatives) will be remembered as a "statesman" or "stateswoman," which Merriam-Webster defines as "a wise, skillful, and respected political leader."
Most Americans do not pay attention on a regular basis to the actions, or competence, of the folks they send to Congress. But can you name more than five currently in office who qualify for the status of statesman or stateswoman? Can you name one from Georgia who truly fits the definition? Could any member of the current Georgia delegation carry the water of Abraham Baldwin, Sam Nunn or Carl Vinson?
(I believe that Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Rep. Sanford Bishop have fought tenaciously on behalf of Georgia farmers, an important consideration to those of us who live and work in Southwest Georgia, to be sure. But when it comes to pure partisanship, they are foot soldiers of the highest rank.)
I don't know about you, but I would not care to leave office, whether after one term or a dozen, and be remembered as a member of the "Do-Nothing Congress."
Yet, isn't that the characterization that will trail most of today's tribe, Democrat and Republican alike?
And if you had to assign one reason for the widely-accepted perception that our Congress has accomplished virtually nothing in recent history, would not that reason be the extreme partisanship that obviously, certainly, pervades Capitol Hill?
Political courage is an asset that few members of Congress seem to possess. They are all so blindly loyal to their respective party lines that they cannot force themselves to do the right thing for the country.
Most of the people elected to Congress take impressive credentials to Washington. They come from hundreds of diverse backgrounds and most are college graduates. If suddenly ousted from office, most would find immediate, gainful employment. What company or law firm, particularly if government contracts were a major source of annual revenue, would not like to have a former member of Congress on their payroll?
So the fear of being defeated for re-election -- by reason of leaving the party directive and voting to help the country, no matter what -- should not be the basis for the way a congressperson votes.
The country is facing monumental problems, here and abroad. We'll soon know if there are any statesmen or stateswomen in the crowd.
Mac Gordon is a retired reporter who lives near Blakely and writes an occasional opinion column for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.