I’ve been trying to find the right metaphor for Marcy Kaptur. Or comparison. Or precedent. I have failed.
Miss Kaptur is unique in three ways: her approach to her job; her approach to her district; the issues she has made her own.
Her approach to her job is essentially vocational.
She sees it as a calling.
I spent a couple of days following her around last month and, at one point, sort of on the fly, I asked if she still enjoyed her work. She looked at me quizzically, sort of as if I’d taken the wrong test or filled out the wrong form. “Oh, I love it,” she said.
And this calling is really about service. I know every politician says that. She doesn’t say it. She just does it.
The way you can tell is the amount of time she spends with constituents one on one. Politicians don’t usually do that. Especially not politicians who typically win with more than 70 percent of the vote.
She is, I think, informed by her deep roots in Catholicism.
Don’t get me wrong, Miss Kaptur is a master politician. Instinctively so.
But, unlike most of her colleagues, she doesn’t need handlers or a script. Like Ronald Reagan, she knows who she is and what she believes, so it is no trick to convey it. She gave the best two speeches I heard this year on Martin Luther King’s birthday. She spoke extemporaneously, from the heart.
Her approach to her district is also unique, because, again, it is personal and individual. She has built her political capital on listening to and helping people. Sounds simple. It is radical.
She never “went Washington.” She is totally connected to Toledo. But even more, she is connected to people. That’s why all Republican attempts to bump her off politically fail miserably. Give her farmers to represent, she learns about farming. Give her Cleveland, and she learns about it. People love her because she listens and wants to learn. What a concept.
I can compare her role to something an actor doing 10 different plays in a day. I watched her meet with medical students, retirees, religious and community groups, a cancer-research advocate, a lady who takes in hurt animals and returns them to the wild, and her beloved community gardeners. There isn’t anyone she can’t talk to. Her focus group is the person in front of her.
Ross Perot was smart to want to recruit her. Her party would be wise to learn from her: pro-labor; pro-women but pro-life; pro-vets. She was right about the free-trade act, partial-birth abortion, Obamacare, and of course, the nation’s need to memorialize the sacrifice of “the greatest generation.”
No one in Congress is as passionate or connected to her people as “Marcy.” I know of no other member of Congress known simply by his or her first name. She is nonpareil, as the French say — without match or equal. She is her own metaphor.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.