Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Democrat Charles Albert “Dutch” Ruppersberger III has represented Maryland’s Second Congressional District since 2003. He’s running for his sixth term against Republican Nancy Jacobs who has been a Senator in the Maryland Assembly since 1999, and a Delegate in the Maryland House of Delegates for one term before that. This is my first article about Congressman Ruppe… Wait. With apologies for the informality, and meaning absolutely no disrespect – Seriously. – I’m going to call Congressman Ruppersberger “Dutch.” His full name and title take too long to type and read. I’ve never met the man, but he has a pleasant smile and I don’t think he’ll mind.
To be clear, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that Dutch is a good man, smart and hardworking, dedicated to serving his District, state and country. These personal considerations are not on the table, only his performance while in office. Dutch is an employee of the people who have paid him well for his services and who have every right and duty to expect a minimum level of accomplishments.
The question for Maryland voters is, “What has Dutch done to earn the right to re-election?” It’s not an automatic thing, at least it shouldn’t be, not even in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by approximately two to one. If it were automatic, what would be the point of having elections? How, if elections had no point, would we ever be able to fix a dysfunctional government by replacing our non-performing elected officials with new ones we send to Washington with a fresh mandate?
It’s not that Dutch hasn’t been trying. Actually, I’m not sure how hard he’s been working, but it doesn’t make any difference. Only results count.
When you have time, click on this link to see a table that lists every one of the 56 bills and resolutions that were sponsored by Dutch over the past nine years, five months he’s been in office. Take a look, read the titles or descriptions of the bills and resolutions, research their actual text if you like, and tell me what you think. As for me, I see the following:
First of all, I see the usual drivel that passes for legislation. When Dutch first took office, the second bill he sponsored (H.R. 3421, introduced October 30, 2003, 10 months into his first term) was “To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 30 West Bel Air Avenue in Aberdeen, Maryland, as the “Ripken Post Office Building.” I like Cal Ripken. From what I can tell, he’s an exemplary person and athlete.
And then there was House Resolution 274, introduced May 3, 2007, “Congratulating and commending Free Comic Book Day as an enjoyable and creative approach to promoting literacy and celebrating a unique American art form.” You’d think if Dutch was seriously interested in “promoting literacy” he’d be working ‘round the clock on making the more fundamental, critical improvements to our education system we so desperately need. In his defense, I too was a big fan of comic books when I was a kid.
In case you’re wondering, neither of these major legislative efforts ever made it out of committee.
Second, I can’t help but notice that, while some of the legislation Dutch sponsored would be helpful in an otherwise perfect world, there’s a complete absence of any legislation addressing a the critical economic, fiscal or social (health, education, etc.) issues of our time. If these 56 bills and resolutions are any indication of Dutch’s priorities, which is exactly what they are, and at the risk of being flip, he’s “Congressman Clueless.” There are really big problems that we need Congress (and the President) to solve. Does he not read the paper, watch the network or cable news, listen to his constituents? Either he doesn’t, in which case he’s way too out of touch to be in Congress, or he is paying attention and, for whatever reasons, has allowed himself to be marginalized or has decided to settle for being something less than the people of Maryland’s Second Congressional District need. Either way, given the $174,000 per year plus benefits that we’re paying him, he needs to be replaced.
Third, maybe you’re saying to yourself, “..but he did sponsor 56 pieces of legislation over the past nine years, five months he’s been in office,” many of which, as I said, are truly useful things to do, however low their priority relative to the major problems we’re up against. Let’s give him credit? No. Let’s not. Of the 56 bills and resolutions, only one passed the House – the “Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812 Commemorative Coin Act” (H.R. 2894, introduced June 28, 2007 – but was never enacted into law. Only one. Note to his opponent: Dutch has pretty much wrapped up the numismatists vote. (Sorry for that remark, Dutch, but I couldn’t help myself.)
Of the 56 bills and resolutions Dutch has sponsored during his career in Congress, only one was actually signed into law. That was H.R. 6215, the “Digital Coast Act of 2010” which was introduced on September 23, 2010. In case you’re wondering, here is the citation from www.govtrack.com describing H.R. 6215. Note the status of the resolution.
To the people of Maryland’s Second Congressional District, you can do better. There’s no law or common sense rule that says you have to vote your party affiliation or re-elect an incumbent because he (or she) seems pleasant enough and hasn’t done anything particularly offensive. Use your head and vote your heart and your wallet. It may be trite, but it’s never been more appropriate to ask yourself, “Are you and your family better off today than when Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger first took office in 2003?” Ask yourself what, exactly, he’s done for you and your family, and your country, during the five terms he’s been in office. Are Dutch’s priorities the same as yours?
At a minimum, regardless of your party affiliation, you need to give his opponent, Maryland Senator Nancy Jacobs, serious consideration. For one thing, she’s eminently qualified. More to the point of why we send people to Congress, Senator Jacobs appears to have her head on straight when it comes to setting relevant priorities and focusing on those issues until they’re resolved.
At the very least, it is the obligation of every voter to periodically replace under-performing elected officials with viable alternatives to which we give a fresh mandate. That’s what elections are for.