Hey Big Daddy,
I noticed this week that Gavin Newsom formed a committee to explore a run for governor. What do you think?
John Nelson, San Francisco
The exploratory committee is a creation of modern politics, and not a good one. Its very existence is emblematic of the mealy-mouthed times in which we live.
How, exactly, do you "explore" a run for office, and why should anyone on God's green earth give you thousands of dollars for this navel-gazing expedition? As far as I'm concerned, exploration should be left to Jacques Cousteau and whatever happens after your senior prom. But if you're going to be running for the highest office in the state, grow a pair and say something definitive.
It's as if we can't admit to ourselves that those who we voluntarily accept to lead us are craven, calculating, ruthless, ambitious, power-hungry, marginal human beings who were not held enough as children, and have some Freudian need to make up for the shortcomings in their personal lives by seeking adulation and affirmation from the unwashed masses. When did that become such a bad thing? It's been going on since before The Flood. But that's the essence and the beauty of politics.
Politics exists so that we can rechannel all that is wrong in our lives, and inflict our will upon others. If we can do some good, and make a little money in the process, all the better.
In a perfect world, politics is the ultimate "don't ask, don't tell" relationship. If the average voters are able to afford tickets to Disney on Ice and send their kids to a public school without being shot at, odds are they're going to leave you alone, and let you keep on doing what you're doing. But if they're sitting in traffic, paying $5 a gallon for gas and their fourth-grader still can't conquer finger painting, there's going to be a problem.
Most people don't like politics, and view their elected officials as their janitorial staff. They're all too happy to let others do it, so they don't have to. They reserve the right to question a poiltician's motivations and generally look down at politicians as a species, but they essentially can't be bothered to deal with the hired help. Which, for most politicians, works out just fine. The best politicians are most comfortable in the shadows.
So, the only "exploration" going on on Planet Newsom now is whether those pretty-boy looks, wads of cash and bragging rights on being first gay marriage are enough to dislodge Jerry Brown. Exploring in this case means talking to donors, commissioning polls, traveling the state, floating trial balloons on key policy issues, and trying to find ways to get television cameras to follow you around.
Where I come from, we call that campaigning.
This type of "exploration" is a perfect example of what the late George Carlin called, "soft language, the language that takes the life out of life." As Carlin said, "Poor people used to live in slums. Now, the economically disadvantaged occupy substandard housing in the inner cities."
Now, whether or not Newsom's got a snowball's chance in hell is another matter. Sure, he looks like he stepped out of central casting, after a quick upside-down dip in a vat of Extra Hold Dep. Is that enough to get elected governor of California? Of course it is. Will it be enough to get elected governor? Probably not.
The same people betting that an upstart like Newsom or Antonio VIllaraigosa could knock off Jerry Brown in a Democratic primary are the same ones who think the U.S. soccer team could win the World Cup.
Sure, it could happen. But if I had to put my money down, I'd explore some other options.