When any incumbent seeks reelection, a common campaign gambit is asking what exactly he or she has done for constituents and the public good.
So, as Pennsylvania's senior U.S. senator, Bob Casey, seeks a third six-year term, that might seem a fair and reasonable question, no?
And, yeah, since he's a member of Congress, the easy, cynical, immediate thought is, "What have any of them done?"
Duly noted. Let's move on.
Which is what I was thinking this week while listening to a long, generic Democratic-talking-points speech by Casey largely focused on President Trump.
It included how Trump's tax-cut bill "gave away the store to the top 1 percent" by helping the rich, not the middle class.
Forgetting, I suppose, that elections have consequences. But let's get to Casey's election.
After the speech, during the Q&A portion of Casey's appearance at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg on Monday, this question was asked: "What three legislative accomplishments are you most proud of?"
Posing it that way is clever and telling. It narrows the response and invites priorities. Plus, it probes the sort of universal question for Washington pols: What exactly is it you do down there?
Based on Casey's response, his priorities, or at least those he's managed to impact, offer some interesting insight.
Here's how he answered.
First, he mentioned the ABLE Act, legislation he sponsored, signed into law by President Obama in 2014.
It allows states to offer disabled people and their families tax-exempt savings accounts to help with long-term expenses such as education, training, transportation, personal assistance services, and related costs not covered by private insurance or government programs.
About half of states offer ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) programs. Pennsylvania's legislature approved it in 2016.
Casey said the law means we "treat disability the same as treating saving for college."
Second, he mentioned his "Campus SaVE" legislation (the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act), signed into law in 2013, implemented in 2015.
It requires, among other things, further transparency and accountability during investigations of sexual assault on college campuses.
Victims and accusers, for example, must simultaneously receive written accounts of all disciplinary actions. It mandates all students get school policies on sexual assault. And victims must be advised of all rights and available resources.
Makes sense. And predates #MeToo.
Third, he talked about bridge repair. (Although when he said it, it was hard not to think of dismissive taunts often tossed at lawmakers: All they do is name bridges.)
Specifically, Casey said how he and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt got additional money in a transportation bill for repairs to "off-system" bridges, those not part of the federal highway system.
That bill was enacted in 2015. Casey said it gives Pennsylvania $369 million over five years. He also said much more is needed. He regularly raps Trump for not moving on infrastructure funding. In May, he noted more than 3,000 of 25,000 state-owned bridges are structurally deficit.
Few, if any, states need infrastructure help, and especially bridge repair, more than Pennsylvania.
Now, none of this is to suggest Casey's an example of an energizer in a do-little town.
(And one could ask, "What have you done for me lately?" — though, maybe you noticed, Democrats lately don't have lots of clout in Washington.)
But it is to suggest that even as we turn our politicians into convenient caricatures – these days pro-Trump sycophants or Trump-hating libs – they are folks who can positively impact our state, nation, culture, and people.
When Casey's Senate opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, spoke at the press club last month, he talked about his success in saving federal funding for after-school programs that multiple administrations sought to eliminate.
Again, it wasn't during his remarks. It was during Q&A.
My point? If more people running for office would put away their talking points, and do more public events, and just answer questions, we'd all likely get a better idea of whom they are. Of what they've done. Or what they think's important.