Dear Big Daddy,
What do you think is wrong with the Legislature?
--Sunny in Encinitas
The problem isn’t the elected officials. The problem is the people who elect them.
Never have I seen such an uninformed and disengaged voting public as I see today. Even in the worst days of Goodwin Knight or George Deukmejian - both Republicans, you notice - have I seen voters as poorly informed about the issues of the day as I see now.
They don’t understand the state budget, but want to write it. They don’t understand how laws are made, but want to change the system. They don’t want to pay for schools or transit or health care in any way, except through borrowing. They want to cut taxes, but don’t say where the money should come from instead. They want to cut government and even outsource government jobs – I hope somebody in Costa Mesa is reading this – and then scream when they get stuck in a DMV office for three hours or their complaint to the police goes unanswered.
They watch too much TV, and during a political campaign they make decisions based on TV advertising. They love attacks and conflict – just like the press, by the way – and decide who to vote for by deciding who they dislike the least. Sometimes it backfires – Meg Whitman, take a bow – but usually not. He who spends the most wins - usually.
Yes, truly, voters are the weak link in a democracy. I’m a Democrat and I know all about democracy.
The fundamental problem is that we have no career political hacks left. Term limits saw to that. I use “hack” in its most fulsome, laudatory way, of course.
I love a good hack. An empire-building, entrenched, money-disbursing, power-wielding, sneaky-in-the-dark hack who runs a legislative committee like an autocrat and brandishes a shiv behind closed doors. Who cuts a deal that leaves most players smiling, allowing them to go back to their districts and declare victory.
Hackery is an art that takes years to develop. I got it right as Assembly speaker, I’m happy to say.
Without hackery, all you have are temps who, willingly or not, simply do the bidding of someone else, like puppets.
Look at state Republicans and that out-of-state, free-lunch mountebank Grover Norquist, or the Koch brothers.
Look at Democrats and the labor unions.
You can judge a politician by whose ass he’s kissing, so my deeply held advice is to kiss as many as possible.
It gives you perspective and positioning and a sense of the fitness of things. And it reminds you how unimportant politicos really are to some people. It’s that combination of inferiority and power that stamps the personalities of so many elected officials.
So for the politician, this advice: When you campaign, you kiss babies. When you govern, you kiss asses. It works every time.
And that’s where the great political hacks have it all over the temps. They knew how to do it, frequently and with great targeting.
And for the public, this advice: If you want to know which asses your candidate is smooching, go to www.ss.ca.gov and head over to the campaign finance section, where the contributions are listed.
There, I’ve done my public service. I can sleep easy tonight.