Saturday, January 22, 2011

All Politics is Loco

I love politics. Being a competitive, statistics-loving person who mocks egregiously misinformed statements and ridicules abject displays of idiocy, what's not to like? My husband is also a fan of the political process, so it used to be that every two years (don't forget mid-term elections) we would have a bevy of things to talk about. We lived in Washington, DC, at the time, to make it even more fun. Early into our marriage, Newt and Monica made their dramatic cameo appearances, and life--and small-talk--has never been the same.

We now live in Los Angeles, but never warmed up to the actor-celebrity thing. Recently, Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson were filming a movie not 50 yards from our house. We liked this very much, not because Matt and Scarlett were roaming the street, but because a perk of living in Los Angeles is that the studios pay homeowners handsomely whenever filming is done in your neighborhood. I think it is to compensate for any parking spaces the studio trucks take up, but I secretly suspect it is to pay off residents so they don't complain if a production flunkie accidentally flicks a cigarette butt on a street corner and it isn't cleaned up within the limits of the five-second rule.

Although I am indifferent to brushes with movie folk, I will admit to breathlessly calling my husband after a chance encounter with the late Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) outside of our place in Washington in the late 1990s. And years later, when Carl Levin (D-Michigan) gave my six-year-old son the evil eye when my son sneezed in the US Senate elevator, I was beside myself with excitement. Maybe Levin will describe the incident on the floor of the Senate and introduce some anti-snot legislation, and my son will be immortalized in the Senatorial record!

My enthrallment with political figures wasn't always so ardent. As a baby, I apparently met then-Massachusetts-Governor Francis W. Sargent at a lobster restaurant on Cape Cod, but I am guessing the oyster crackers received more of my attention than the politician. In 1980, after the US Olympic Hockey Team won a gold medal, I attended a reception at the State House (my mother had an in) where I undoubtedly offended Governor Edward J. King (whose term was sandwiched between two Dukakis gubernatorial turns) by asking him not to autograph the program I was handing him, but to pass it along to the handsome locally grown team member, Jim Craig. And for years, a personally autographed (to my brother) glossy of Dukakis remained one of our family's favorite mementos for its kitsch value. Really, who would have thought he would be a future presidential candidate? The signed photo still has kitsch value only.

While others were keeping tally of the social lives of New Kids on the Block, I was completely on top of identifying the senior and junior from every state. I have found politics to be a terrific spectator sport (I am a fan of any sport that requires no physical exertion). I worked for a number of candidates running for Congressional seats and probably learned more than I needed to know about the inner workings of the political process. One of my more benign memories involved driving with fellow campaign workers in my enormous red two-door Chevy Malibu from Boston to the outskirts of Maryland to work for our candidate's sister (from a famous political family), also running for office.  We of the snotty New England prep school scene were advised to local-up our privileged patter to appeal to the voters of Towson, Maryland's congressional district. One lesson that perhaps all should be aware of is even the most popular politicians bring busloads of supporters with hundreds of pre-printed signs to any event where there might be a camera within 10 miles. When you see political events on TV with maniacally waving signs supporting the appearing candidate, be very wary.

Now, being both a parent and political observer, I am amused to see how similar the behavior is of politicians and young children. The not-so-bright school kids who are so confident in their parent-fed opinions are likely to be reps-in-training. The kiss-ass who Eddie Haskells his way through middle school has public servant written all over him.  The tantrumming kid is, of course, a future filibusterer. And I don't mean the awesome Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) kind, if you know what I mean. The two-party system smacks of elementary school cliques--boys versus girls, and don't make them be partners on a field trip. Ahh, the name-calling--does calling someone "Poopy Face" differ from a meanspirited cry of "Socialist"?? And the legislative process is so reminiscent of a preschooler's focus on inconsequential details to the detriment of the big picture--"I will not get in the car without my pink headband." All age-appropriate in 5 year olds, not so much in adults. No offense to my children's wonderful schoolmates, but the antics of a classroom of first-graders reminds me of the cast of characters in Congress, with the same possible outcome: It's all in good fun until someone gets hurt.


  1. I've never much thought about it, but there are striking similarities to the antics of politicians and young children.

    My favorite is the attitude of "If I can't get my way, I am going to make it impossible for you to get your way."

  2. Hi, Doug! Great to hear from you! Yes, even a newborn like your son probably exhibits more introspection and self-control than most politicians. And, as you reference on your blog about the insurance companies, the selfishness and insanity displayed by the powers that be have very real consequences. Hope things get better. Take care--Karen

  3. i can totally get your mindset, living in India i kinda face politics everyday and the worst being corruption... seriously hate it... M like politics in not my cup of tea...
    but frankly well written.

  4. Hi, AiShA--Thank you for your comments and congratulations on your blog! It seems that no matter where you are, the people who are lured into politics are exactly the ones who should never be in a position to make decisions that impact other people's lives. Take care and I look forward to seeing more of your postings. Best, Karen