Thursday, February 18, 2010

ready, set, go! maybe.

From the House chamber gallery yesterday, I watched my state reps chit chat, talk on their iPhones, surf the web, eat lunch, snooze, doodle, confab and a few of them were even paying attention to the bill debate going on. What follows is a very paraphrased version of the proceedings:

Dem Rep: ...and so I think my Baby-Daddy registry amendment to bill Such and Such is a good idea.

GOP Rep: Uh, I don't get it. I'm sure my esteemed colleague knows his community best but I'm not sure I get the point.
Dem Rep: Well, there are baby daddies - or maybe not. But we won't know unless there's a list of them. A list of Baby Daddies.
GOP Rep: I still don't get it.
(And the debate continues like this for a while. Then - )
Dem Majority Whip: (standing) This amendment makes no sense; pull it.
Dem Rep: (sigh) I respectfully withdraw my amendment.
GOPRep: I still don't get it!
Sith Lord of the House (aka, Speaker): Next bill, Clerk.
Clerk: On a resolution protesting terrorism, Miranda rights, the use of the super max prison for terrorists who have been Mirandized and extolling all things good about America.
Sith Lord: Who wrote this?
Patriotic GOP Rep: That would be me; I really think it's important to protect our state and read this resolution on the floor because the Obama administration is going to destroy everything we hold dear and this resolution will somehow be meaningful.
Sith Lord: (hard stare and sigh) Why can't this go to committee?
Patriotic GOP Rep: Because I want to read it on the floor. My colleagues agree with me.
(tiny GOP minority cheers)
Sith Lord: Are you sure you don't want this to go to committee?
Patriotic GOP Rep: No. Read it.
Sith Lord: I say we don't read it and I have this handy procedural rule that will allow me to kill it. Duly killed.
Patriotic GOP Rep: I protest!
Sith Lord: I call for a vote: shall I be Sith Lord and have the right to kill this puny resolution or shall I not? Finger vote!
(computer screens all light up)
Sith Lord: 69 votes for me and none for you. Everybody, to my chambers! (exeunt)

And so on for the next hour. I had to give it to the scrappy Patriotic GOP member; while Sith Lord was conferring with his leaders, he tried to reintroduce his resolution but the Sith Lord's second just repeated the procedural vote results from a paper and ignored him over his protests. Up in the gallery, a woman leaned over to me and whispered, "That man over there just got dissed, didn't he?"
I whispered back, "Big time."
She sighed. "This is why nothing ever gets done."

My COO, who was waving to her aunt on the floor, leaned over. "After seeing this, don't you want to be down there?"
"No. I would lose my shit."

She gave me a hard glance. "You know you love it. This is all a show, and you know that. The real work happens in those committee meetings. That guy knew he wouldn't get his amendment. And he knew his resolution wouldn't make it out of his mouth." Nodding down at the now silent Patriotic GOP member.
"And that makes me want to do this, why?"
"You're still young enough to try this and either make it or not. But you have about 3 years to plan. You should make a decision soon. My aunt can help."

Later, at the train station to return to Chicago, my COO introduced me to her uncle, a retired blue collar worker whose main job is to make sure Rep Auntie X made it to her meetings in Springfield from the south side.
As we were shaking hands, the COO said, "She's feeling the call."
Uncle X gave me a look and said, "Well now."
"We'll see," I said. "I'm interested but ..."
"Well," he said. "My wife won't tell you this, but I'm not anybody's elected anything. With every election, the quality is going down. They're getting stupider and stupider. If you're worth it, and my niece doesn't back people who aren't worth it, then you should do it. You'll be needed."

On the train, my COO said. "You'll need 3 years to get a mortgage, a fundraising base and a network. You have a strong network already partly in place. And you need a target. Westside districts will be hard; northside might be doable; southside would be easier. My aunt's would be ideal."

"I don't want to move to the south side!"
"Delia Christina, you need to be serious. If you're going to do this, the DO THIS."

This was still on my mind when I got home, exhausted. If one day of basically nothing exhausted me, what would a whole job do to me? If one session made me disgusted, what would hundreds of them do? If I secretly thought elected official X was an asshat, what would prevent me from calling him that to his face? And if people like me (or you) don't step up, what then? What about my writing? What about the book that's been growing inside me? What about my relationship? And have I said I don't want a frakking mortgage!?

So that's what's on my mind: trying to plan the next three years to maybe be ready for a go in '14. Or not.

1 comment:

Dan said...

The only thing keeping those elected officials from calling each other names was the fact that they knew they were being watched. You think of all the stupid things they do say when they know they're being watched, and then extrapolate from there to figure what sort of stupid things they say when there's no audience and no microphones, and it gets pretty scary, doesn't it?

Yes, everything you saw was just for show. All the real work (and people calling each other asshats) happens in the commitee meetings, behind closed office doors, over drinks, on the golf course, card games, etc. If you can bring yourself to call a man an asshat and then offer to buy him a drink (or vice versa) then you'll do just fine!