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By Harold Joseph Laski

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The ride exposed me to Flynt’s amazing appetite—and memory— for people, time, and place. ’’ And, at the site, ‘‘Do you know what the Indian name for the river was? And do you know what it meant? ’’ ‘‘Do you know that somewhere in this valley, there’s a place that is the southernmost location of trailing arbutus and the northernmost location of Spanish moss? ’’ The depth of his immersion in the detail of the area was remarkable. And I soon learned that this process of sorting, filing, cataloging, and rehearsing the details of his district was neverending.

As he saw it, his personal connections had two aspects: personal contact and personal service. Personal contact was the more visible of the two activities, but personal service was implicit in every contact and available to every constituent. Taken together, they defined a strategy of personal accessibility. Flynt wanted to be accessible, and he wanted to have the reputation for being accessible. As he put it the next day, ‘‘I could vote conservative or liberal on any piece of legislation, and most of the people of my district wouldn’t care a bit— so long as they know I’ll help them when they come to me with a problem.

During these five home visits, conversation centered on families, churches, flowers, trees, and football loyalties. With election day only two days away, there was an occasional sprinkling of political opinion. But Flynt had no opposition, and politics was a very minor note. Mostly there was an easygoing, familiar, reinforcing exchange of small talk and pleasantries. In the process, however, there were implicit exchanges of mutual regard and implicit confirmation of the constituents’ established pattern of support and of the congressman’s established pattern of responsiveness.

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