I recently encountered freshman Democrat Congressman John Adler of New Jersey's third congressional district at a holiday social event and we had a pleasant chat.
I asked John Adler what he wants the readers of my blog to know about him.
He told me that he wants you to know that he's working very hard in Washington, that he's trying to do the right thing, that he wants to make the right decisions, that he wants to provide the services and good judgement and commitment that you expect from a public official. Unspoken, but nonetheless implied was this: He wants to be viewed as an independent-minded Congressman who doesn't put party first. He understands that he's serving a district that has almost always been Republican.
For my part, I thanked John for voting against the House version of Obamacare and effectively defying the House leadership under Speaker Pelosi. Alas, the measure passed anyway.
It's been quite a number of years since I first met John when he came to my door to solicit my vote in Cherry Hill, seeking his first public office. I have no doubt that he's a good vote counter. He knows the realities of politics in the trenches. He realizes that he faces a tough fight for re-election in the new year.
But anyone who comes up against John Adler is also going to face a tough fight. He's smart, quick, clever, tenacious and determined. That's how he got where he is.
Still, we live in a time when we expect to know not just where politicians stand on any given public issue but also who they are -- how they feel, how they live, what they value, and what, if anything, they're passionate about. We want to know what makes them tick and that means seeing through to the heart.
I suppose you could say that in a plastic age more than a few of us crave "realness." It's not enough for us to know where you stand. We want to know the why of the equation: how you're wired, how you're grounded, what anchors you, who you really are.
I know that this might seem like a Big Question to have to answer. But if you don't want to answer it (or if you can't answer it) you have the option of not climbing into the public arena in the first place.
If you put yourself out there, we have the right to know the answer.
And when all is said and done, this may be the most important factor in the upcoming district contest and in so many others across the country.
Of course, John Adler has a significant war chest and more than a few people (I'm sure) who are advising him and will advise him (quite strategically) on this and other matters.
I simply told him I'd relay his message to you, and so I have.
And I extend to John Adler and his family best wishes for a Happy New Year.